Professionalism is the key to any job, but perhaps more so when it comes to the military. The nature of war itself, perhaps the most brutal and destructive force facing mankind, requires that those who do the fighting, do so with extreme levels of discipline, commitment, and skill. Such things are the essence of military professionalism.
Discipline is the first aspect of military professionalism, and it is is the one things upon which all other martial virtues are built. In the days of Napoleonic warfare, tight formations of fighting men, aiming and firing in precise unison were crucial to victory on the battlefield.
The Expanding Nature of Discipline
While we no longer fight in such rigid formations, discipline is no less important. Complex battle plans and joint operations between different branches of the armed forces require that every member be highly disciplined in terms of following orders, maintaining weapons and using a precise amount of force when required. Without discipline, soldiers can go too far, inflicting reckless damage to life and property while subverting victory. This is especially true today, where wars are often won or lost not based on pure force, but on "hearts and minds."
Military professionalism also depends highly on commitment. Soldiers must be committed to the country, the service, their unit, and ultimately each other and the mission they are tasked to complete. Often military work requires long hours, in hazardous conditions, with little or no comforts. Commitment allows members to overcome hardships and push on when their bodies are telling them to quit.
For military professionalism, neither the discipline of a Zen master nor the commitment of a religious zealot will mean much without skill. Skill allows members of the military to complete missions assigned to them and complete them well. An infantry soldier needs to be able to shoot, an engineer to build and a pilot to fly. Lacking knowledge, and lacking skill can mean death for someone who has only seconds to react to fire or stop the bleeding of a wounded comrade.
The Unified Essence of Military Professionalism
Military professionalism is a totality which forms the basis for how individuals, groups, and the military itself acts to perform its job. There can be no skill without the discipline to train. There can be no adherence to discipline without the commitment to endure. There can be no commitment without disciplined skill to complete the mission. Thus one can not neglect one, without loosing all of what it means to be a military professional.