from French, from feminine of moral, adjective; in other senses, modification of French moral morale, from moral, adjective
- 1: moral principles, teachings, or conduct
- 2a : the mental and emotional condition (as of enthusiasm, confidence, or loyalty) of an individual or group with regard to the function or tasks at hand
- 3: the level of individual psychological well-being based on such factors as a sense of purpose and confidence in the future
Morale (also known as esprit de corps) is the capacity of a group's members to maintain belief in an institution or goal, particularly in the face of opposition or hardship. Morale is often referenced by authority figures as a generic value judgment of the willpower, obedience, and self-discipline of a group tasked with performing duties assigned by a superior. According to Alexander H. Leighton, morale is the capacity of a group of people to pull together persistently and consistently in pursuit of a common purpose".
In military science, there are two meanings to morale. Primarily it means unit cohesion, the cohesion of a unit, task force, or other military group. An army with good supply lines, sound air cover and a clear objective can be said to possess, as a whole, "good morale" or "high morale." Historically, elite military units such as special operations forces have "high morale" due to both their training and pride in their unit. When a unit's morale is said to be "depleted", it means it is close to "crack and surrender". It is well worth noting that generally speaking, most commanders do not look at the morale of specific individuals but rather the "fighting spirit" of squadrons, divisions, battalions, ships, etc.
Clausewitz stresses the importance of morale and will for both the soldier and the commander. The soldier's first requirement is moral and physical courage, both the acceptance of responsibility and the suppression of fear. In order to survive the horror of combat, he must have an invincible martial spirit, which can be attained only through military victory and hardship. The soldier has but one purpose: "The end for which a soldier is recruited, clothed, armed and trained, the whole object of his sleeping, eating, drinking, and marching is simply that he should fight at the right place and the right time."
"Military morale is in a large sense inseparable from civilian morale because each reacts upon the other and both are in large measure based on fidelity to a cause. But there is a certain kind of morale that is distinctly military. It begins with the soldier's attitude toward duty. It develops with the soldier's command over himself. It is a spirit that becomes dominant in the individual and also in the group. Whether the soldier has physical comforts or suffers physical hardships may be a factor but is seldom the determining factor in making or unmaking his morale. A cause known and believed in; knowledge that substantial justice governs discipline; the individual's confidence and pride in himself, his comrades, his leaders; the unit's pride in its own will; these basic things, supplemented by intelligent welfare and recreation measures and brought to life by a spirit of mutual respect and co-operation, combine to weld a seasoned fighting force capable of defending the nation."
Esprit de corps is tied very closely with the British Royal Marines and their brother organization from across the Atlantic ocean the United States Marine Corps. It is not only a phrase that means, roughly, the Morale of the/a unit, but also a core philosophy within the foundation of both organizations. In the USMC it is a phrase that sits along side the core values Honor, Courage, and Commitment as a living, breathing, entity that is not only the fighting spirit but the pride for the unit, service branch, and country, and the devotion and loyalty to the other members of the unit that the men and women fight and serve with. Within the USMC and the RM there is a special meaning and place in the hearts of the men and women for the phrase "Esprit de corps".