The U.S. military is primarily a meritocracy and rewards officers for succeeding in challenging assignments. A byproduct of this meritocracy is that some officers sometimes must balance the desire to advance with maintaining their sense of honor and individuality.
Right at the fulcrum of this balance is the “company man.” He emerges at the 15- to 18-year point in a standard career, when the proximity to retirement begins to weigh heavily in career decisions. A company man is expected to tolerate greater hardship, support policies with greater zeal, and suffer frustration with less resistance. In exchange, he expects security and advancement. When a company man is faced with an ethical dilemma that risks his years of service, careerism is a likely outcome.
Officers in grades O5 and O6 must beware the pitfalls of the company man and develop a “free agent” mentality.