Background - Between 2001 and 2014, British military nurses served in Afghanistan caring for both Service personnel and local nationals of all ages. However, there have been few research studies assessing the effectiveness of the military nurses' operational role and no papers naming the core values and characteristics. This paper is from the only qualitative nursing study completed during this period where data was collected in the War Zone. Objective - To explore the characteristics and values that are intrinsic to military nurses in undertaking their operational role. Design - A constructivist grounded theory was utilised. The authors designed the interview schedule, and then following a pilot study, conducted and transcribed the discussions. Informed consent and UK Ministry of Defence Research Ethical Committee approval was obtained. Results - A theoretical model was developed that identifies the intrinsic characteristics and values required to be a military nurse. Nursing care delivered within the operational environment was perceived as outstanding. Nurses consciously detached themselves from any legal processes and treated each casualty as a vulnerable patient, resulting in care, compassion and dignity being provided for all patients, irrespective of their background, beliefs or affiliations. Conclusion - The study findings provide military nurses with a framework for a realistic personal development plan that will allow them to build upon their strengths as well as to identify and ameliorate potential areas of weakness. Placing nurses first, with a model that focusses on the requirements of a good nurse has the potential to lead to better patient care, and improve the quality of the tour for defence nurses. These findings have international implications and have the potential for transferability to any level of military or civilian nursing practice.