Air Force's integrity is called into question - what will you do to fix it?

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Matthew Stines
  • 366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs Office
Despite the dedication and hard work of Airmen worldwide many recent news stories called the integrity of the Air Force and its people into question.

According to The Little Blue Book, the Core Values (integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do) are much more than minimum standards. They remind us of what it takes to get the mission done. They inspire us to do our very best at all times. They are the common bond among all comrades in arms -- the "glue" unifying the force and tying us to the great warriors and public servants of the past.

Integrity, service and excellence are only three words. However, as core values, they serve as ideals inspiring Airman to make our institution what it is -- the best and most respected Air Force in the world. Core values represent the fundamental principles guiding our work and everyday lives. They serve as the heart of our profession.

These values exist for all members of the Air Force family: officer, enlisted or civilian; active, Reserve, Guard or retired. They are for all of us to read, understand, live by and cherish.

Integrity is the essential element or the foundation that builds the other values. Integrity means being honest with others, as well as, yourself and doing what's right -- all the time. Integrity remains the very bedrock of the military profession. Servicemembers with integrity will always do what's right, regardless of the circumstances, even when no one is looking. They make no compromise in being honest in all things great and small.

As professional Airmen, we must have the highest standards of integrity. Without integrity, we cannot maintain the public trust so essential to military service in a free society. Retired Lt. Gen. Robert D. Springer once said, "The American public looks to us to defend their freedoms and their way of life; they charge us with the care of their sons and daughters."

No other civilian occupational or specialty can claim such responsibilities. And, unless we are true to our word and true to ourselves, we cannot expect the implicit public trust we need to perform our mission.

If integrity is the foundation of our core values, then service before self is the architectural design of the commitment and sacrifice steering our ambitions and commanding our purpose.

Each one of us can rightfully take pride in the job we do. The extensive training, hard work and satisfaction of a job well done helps foster occupational pride. We are different from our civilian counterparts because of the uniform we wear. We may be a top-notch engineer, an outstanding pilot, or a maintainer out on the flightline, but we are all Airmen first.

Our military service is an uncommon profession calling for people with an enduring commitment and dedication to the mission. It requires us to have a sense of service before self. Each member must realize his or her needs are secondary to the needs of our great country.

This is a 24-hour-a-day commitment, and one requiring many personal sacrifices. Personal goals are important and may often coincide with these Air Force goals. However, there is no room for personal agendas interfering with the needs of our country.

As professional Airmen, we differ from our civilian counterparts in several ways, General Springer maintains. First, we have a mission that is not based on corporate profits or agency billings. That mission provides a purpose to our actions going beyond self-interest or financial rewards. It's our devotion to duty, honor and country that sets us apart from an airline pilot or a corporate administrator. It's this commitment to the mission that makes us professional Airmen rather than occupational specialists.

According to retired Brig. Gen. Malham M. Wakin, Permanent Professor Emeritus of the U.S. Air Force Academy, "Recognition of military heroism is inevitably a celebration of a supreme example of service before self. When Medal of Honor recipient Capt. Lance Sijan, in the jungles of Vietnam, waved away the rescue helicopter that could have brought him back to friendly territory, he sealed his own fate, but saved the helicopter crew from the guns of the enemy who surrounded him. Here was service before self in extreme circumstances."

Service before self maintains the idea that professional obligations supersede selfish compulsions. This attribute of leadership is evident through one's regard for the rules governing them, their authentic faith in the system, attested discipline and respect for others. Beyond question, it is understood that to lead one must first serve.

Our third core value focuses on the excellence in how we perform. The Hon. Michael W. Wynne, Secretary of the Air Force, once said, "'excellence' doesn't stop with singular achievements, which is why our core value has the qualifier of 'in all we do.' A culture of excellence must inform and permeate all of our actions. Excellence must be our prevailing attitude."

Military members are entrusted by all Americans with our nation's security. This encompasses many things. Among these is the care of the resources of our nation, the most treasured of which are the lives of those who serve. This makes competence or excellence in all things we do paramount. Doing the very best you can is not just a professional obligation. It's a moral one as well.

Excellence is the highest standard of greatness. To this end, each of us should strive to manufacture quality and possess superiority.

Integrity first, service before self and excellence in all things we do tell us the "price of admission" to the Air Force. They point to what is universal and unchanging in the profession of arms, they help us understand the ethical climate of the organization, and also serve as beacons vectoring us back to the path of professional conduct. The Core Values allow us to transform a climate of corrosion into a climate of ethical commitment.