U.S. Special Forces turn to BYU for ethics training

Feb 24, 2021, 5:55 AM

FILE -- National Guard members compete in the annual Region VII Marksmanship Championships at Camp ...

FILE -- National Guard members compete in the annual Region VII Marksmanship Championships at Camp Williams in Bluffdale, Utah,Saturday, June 20, 2009. National Guardsmen and women from Arizona, Nevada and Utah competed in pistol, light machine gun, rifle and sniper shoots. Barton Glasser, Deseret News

PROVO – U.S. Special forces units are turning to BYU for a different kind of ethics training.  Some professors say the world of business ethics and the world of warfare have more similarities than many people would realize. 

Over the past 30 years, BYU Professor of Ethics and Leadership Brad Agle has been asking business leaders what kind of ethical dilemmas they’ve gone through.  After some years, he noticed a few patterns and began to classify what these ethical dilemmas were really about.

Agle said, “[We found] 97% of all ethical dilemmas that people face in organizational life fall into one of 13 general categories.”

Military conflict and the world of business may not seem very similar, but Agle said soldiers in special forces units need to make ethical decisions every day, and those decisions fall into the same kinds of categories that business dilemmas do.

“One is called ‘Standing Up To Power.’  It’s very common where someone in a power relationship with you tells you or ask you to do something you think is unethical,” he said.

Agle and his co-author, Aaron Miller, wrote the book “The 13 Dilemmas” for business executives, but officials with the U.S. Special Operations Command felt it could be applied to situations that units like the Army Rangers, Green Berets and Navy Seals face on a constant basis.  They asked Agle to rewrite the book into a field guide that soldiers could have with them at all times.

“We replaced all the business stories with their actual special operator stories,” Agle said.

The 56-page field guide is now reportedly being used extensively in training for special forces units. 

Agle said, “They published 5,000, originally, and those have been distributed to most of the special operations units.”

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U.S. Special Forces turn to BYU for ethics training