Section 2 : Fundamental Beliefs and Expectations

The military ethos speaks to and affirms certain beliefs and expectations about military service that serve to develop the military members’ professional self-portrait. Principal among these are the concepts of unlimited liability, fighting spirit, discipline, teamwork, and physical fitness.

Accepting Unlimited Liability

Unlimited liability is a concept derived strictly from a professional understanding of the military function. As such, all members accept and understand that they are subject to being lawfully ordered into harm’s way under conditions that could lead to the loss of their lives. It is this concept that underpins the professional precept of mission, own troops and self, in that order, and without which the military professional’s commitment to mission accomplishment would be fatally undermined. It also modifies the notion of service before self, extending its meaning beyond merely enduring inconvenience or great hardship. It is an attitude associated with the military professional’s philosophy of service. The concept of unlimited liability is integral to the military ethos and lies at the heart of the military professional’s understanding of duty.

Fighting Spirit

Fighting spirit requires that members of the Canadian Forces be focused on and committed to the primacy of operations. They therefore strive for high levels of operational effectiveness and readiness, and are willing to engage in or support combat operations. It imparts to individuals the moral, physical and intellectual qualities necessary to operate in conditions of extreme danger, to endure hardship and to approach their assigned missions with confidence, tenacity and the will to succeed. Fighting spirit is especially important to act decisively — including the use of lawful, lethal force against an adversary — during combat operations.

This spirit is not restricted to those directly engaged in operations. Indeed, as a state of mind, fighting spirit applies to all occupations in the Canadian Forces. Out of fighting spirit is born a strong bond as comrades-in-arms that instils cohesion and esprit de corps in ships’ companies, army units and air force squadrons, as well as in headquarters and staffs. Inculcating this spirit in all military members is a key responsibility of Canadian Forces leaders at every level.


Discipline plays a major role in maintaining a high standard of military professionalism. Discipline helps build the cohesion that enables individuals and units to achieve objectives that could not be attained by military skills alone and allows compliance with the interests and goals of the military institution while instilling shared values and common standards. Discipline among professionals is fundamentally self-discipline that facilitates immediate and willing obedience to lawful orders and directives while strengthening individuals to cope with the demands and stresses of operations. It instils self-assurance and resiliency in the face of adversity and builds self-control. A high standard of military discipline is generated from an understanding of the demands of combat, a knowledge of comrades and trust in leaders.


The military ethos places a high value on teamwork. Teamwork builds cohesion, while individual talent and the skills of team members enhance versatility and flexibility in the execution of tasks. In the conflict environment of the 21st century, the Canadian Forces’ ability to operate in a joint, combined and integrated inter-agency context will depend on the efficient integration and synthesis of the skill sets of all of its members. Teamwork must also involve non-military organizations and individuals, not only within the Department of National Defence, but also and increasingly among non-governmental organizations (NGOs), private industry and academia. This kind of teamwork is needed to leverage knowledge while permitting military members and organizations to prevail in the most complex and dangerous situations.

Physical Fitness

Physical fitness contributes directly to the overall health and welfare of subordinates.  All training benefits from fitness, and some of the most important and difficult training cannot be done without it.  Operations in any environment (sea, land or air) demand the highest levels of fitness.  Failure to accomplish any task or the mission itself due to followers being unfit is inexcusable.  Leaders lead by example, thus they achieve and maintain the highest standards of physical fitness at all times.

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