Core values: key ingredients for the perfect Airman

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Anthony M. Ward
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs
Some members of the U.S. Air Force enlist or commission with the intention of serving their term and separating upon the expiration of their contracts. Whatever their reason for joining, whether it be for education, benefits, a steady income, or simply because they want to serve their country, they serve honorably.

There are many Airmen, however, who never intend to separate from the service, at least not until they've been in long enough to earn a retirement. Some Airmen who never intended to make the Air Force a career decide to stay in for the long run.

I myself never intended my career to be one in the Air Force. I originally enlisted for many reasons similar to those listed earlier: education, benefits, income and a desire to serve my country. The biggest reason, however, is that I wanted to be the respectable person as I knew that military service members generally are. Though I've only been in slightly less than two years, I've come to love the life the Air Force has given me, and couldn't possibly imagine another.

Those Airmen wishing for an Air Force career should remember and focus on what is required to fulfill that goal of becoming a retired service member. As many Airmen know, the Air Force budget is decreasing and with it, the number of Airmen that are allowed to serve. This of course means the Air Force is becoming more selective on whom it allows to re-enlist.

As the Department of Defense continues to move toward a leaner Air Force, those who intend to continue being a part of it should ensure they are the ones who stand out among the rest and therefore, ensure their place among the ranks of the world's greatest Air Force.

Integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do, -- these are the Air Force core values. These are the key ingredients to the perfect Airman. Our military training instructors drill these core values into our heads at basic military training.

Standing out among our fellow Airmen is as simple as remembering, as well as practicing, the core values. Though without understanding what the core values are, how can we remember, let alone practice them?

Integrity first, the first of the three core values. But what is integrity, anyway? Webster's New World Dictionary defines integrity as, "The quality or state of being of sound moral principle; uprightness, honesty, and sincerity." So how does the Air Force define integrity in one of its three core values?

"The Little Blue Book." I think we can all honestly say that we, as Airmen, have seen this little blue book. This book is a basic guide to the Air Force core values and defines integrity first as the willingness to do what is right even when no one is looking.

This first of the three core values, like the other two, is engrained into us in BMT, if not first in the life we led before the military. It's what makes those who depend on us for defense, both foreign and domestic, trust us to do what's right.

Those who show the highest levels of integrity are the ones the Air Force looks for in terms of promotion, awards and re-enlistment. This is perhaps the most important of the three core values, one that will certainly play a key role in not only your Air Force career, but in every aspect of your life.

Service before self, the second core value. "The Little Blue Book" defines this as, "Professional duties take precedence over personal desires." It means both following the rules and understanding they have a reason for being. It means respecting others and putting them before ourselves. Lastly, it means having discipline and self-control, and not allowing things such as personal desires to impede us from performing our duties.

We all remember the day we raised our right hand and swore to defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic, right? Service before self is the core value which we practice to keep that oath. It's what puts everything else aside so that we, as Airmen, can defend the U.S. Constitution.

Excellence in all we do is the third and final of the three Air Force core values. This could be, perhaps, both the easiest and most difficult of core values. It's what directs us toward a continuous improvement in performance and accomplishment.

How could this core value be, at the same time, both the easiest and most difficult? I believe it is because, while we all should want to strive toward excellence, actually achieving it is easier said than done, but not impossible. It's all a matter of how much you want to be the best you possibly can be in every aspect of your life.

The Air Force needs this core value. It needs Airmen who continuously strive for excellence to accomplish its mission. It's the Airmen who continuously strive to be the best the Air Force looks for and wants to keep around.

Integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do: these are key ingredients for a perfect Airman. Whether or not you intend your Air Force career to be four or 20-plus years, you should remember the core values, but more importantly, you should practice them.

I fully intend to earn an Air Force retirement. In order to accomplish that goal, however, I know I must abide by the core values. I must stand out from my fellow Airmen. Only by doing this can I maintain my place among the ranks of the world's greatest Airmen in the world's greatest Air Force.