Core Values

  • Published
  • By Col. Jeffry Rice
  • VIce Commander, 183rd Fighter Wing
Integrity first, service before self, excellence in all we do. Those are the Air Force core values. They are instilled in us from day one of our service and training. Have you ever stopped to really examine those words? Before examining the Air Force core values though, we must first define what core values are. Core values are said to be the basic, fundamental, or bedrock values of an organization. They are the underlying guiding principles that influence all behavior and action. That said, then any decision or action can be applied against our core values to help determine the proper answer, direction, or outcome. Let's look at each one of our core values.

Integrity first. What is integrity? I have often heard it explained as doing the right thing even when no one is looking. Integrity is defined in the Merriam-Webster's dictionary as a firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values, incorruptibility, an unimpaired condition of soundness, and the quality or state of being complete or undivided. It is the
concept of consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations, and outcomes no matter what situation you find yourself in. Integrity is regarded as the honesty and truthfulness of your actions. The word integrity comes from the Latin word integer which means whole or complete. In this context, integrity is the inner sense of being complete deriving from qualities such as honesty and consistency of character. As an example, one may judge if someone has integrity if the way they act is in accordance with the values, beliefs and principles they claim to hold. There is also honesty and proactive honesty. Honesty is admitting a mistake when asked. Proactive honesty is telling someone you made a mistake before you are asked. Proactive honesty is integrity. Do you see some common threads here? Consistency, honesty, truthfulness, character, all of those things are part of integrity.

Service before self. Simply put, and perhaps obvious, service before self means putting service before any personal wants or needs. When you took your oath and became a member of the armed services, you became part of something very unique. You have agreed to put the needs of this country above your own personal comforts and desires. Our missions often involve the risk of human life and could even involve the very survival of this great nation. As warriors, we will fight and win when our nation calls us. We could not very well execute our missions to the best of our abilities if we were to put our own greed, wants, or comforts ahead of the mission requirements. Service before self also means being a good leader. You do not have to be a commander, officer or an NCO to be a leader. You can be a leader at any level. A leader puts the needs of others ahead of their own needs. This core value involves following rules, having respect for authority and for others, having faith in the organization, maintaining discipline and having self-control. All things you would expect to find in a military organization.

Excellence in all we do. Excellence is defined as superior, eminently good, or first class. It is something having a quality which is unusually good and surpasses ordinary standards. It is also used as a standard of performance. Aristotle is quoted as saying "We are what we repeatedly do...excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." The old adage practice makes perfect seems to fit quite well here. Excellence is extremely important to us as warfighters because our profession can mean life and death. Our enemies are striving for excellence so we had better be doing the same. Do not settle for mediocrity or doing something just good enough to get by but strive for continuous improvement. There are several different areas of excellence to look at. Product or service excellence is at the forefront because it is how you do your job every day. Personal excellence means seeking to continually improve yourself by taking advantage of continuing professional education and by staying in physical and mental shape, being fit to fight. In the community, both internally and externally, we strive for excellence by working together with mutual respect to reach common goals. Resource excellence means implementing policies to ensure the best possible management of both our material and human resources. Operational excellence is a form of excellence pertaining to the way in which we treat the world around us as we conduct our operations. In peacetime we are required to obey the laws and rules governing our everyday lives and in wartime we are required to obey the laws of war. So, excellence in all we do is not just about doing your job. It is how you wear your uniform, how you conduct yourself both on and off base, how you treat and interact with those around you, whether at home or deployed, it does apply literally to all you do. Excellence in all we do encompasses everything. It is the care of our nation's resources, the most treasured of which are the lives of those who serve. This makes competence or excellence in all things that we do paramount.

As we approach the inspections in June, think about our core values. Think about their meaning as reviewed here. They should, of course, be second nature to you but they become even more prominent at this time. The term center of excellence gets used a lot. Colonel Paul has stated that he does not want us to be a center of excellence but rather he wants us to be a center of outstanding. Live the core values and I am positive that we will indeed be a center of outstanding!