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Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Douglas Ackerman
  • 43rd Airlift Wing Command Chief
There are a lot of buzzwords flying around to analyze issues across our Air Force. Some say we need to get "back to basics," suggesting we lack compliance and accountability. The back to basics campaign suggests that we have forgotten our fundamental disciplines taught to us in basic military training. The perceptive trend of personnel not following technical guidance alludes to a compliance problem. The seeming lack of accountability, except for senior leaders, for upholding Air Force standards is prevalent in accidents, incidents and documentation. But, what happened to good old-fashioned Air Force Core Values?

Our Core Values were simplified to three short statements more than a decade ago: Integrity First, Service Before Self and Excellence in All We Do. These statements are very powerful and represent our Airmen in the best profession of arms in the world. It is critical as we progress into our 20th year of combat operations and our ninth year in our current conflicts that we do not forget about these three statements.

The little blue book describes Integrity First as our moral compass. The most simplistic definition is doing the right thing when no one else is looking. This is a far-reaching definition that can be applied when we go downtown on the weekend, when we follow tech data working on an aircraft, when processing a piece cargo or simply abiding by our uniform standards. It is not all encompassing though, so we add other values like service.

Service Before Self is just as challenging to uphold as integrity. As a matter of fact, putting the service's needs before our own may be more difficult. Service is simply performing one's duty. This may be providing performance feedbacks to our Airmen, ensuring duty sections have a culture of respect between personnel or ensuring a task is complete in a timely manner. It is also recognizing that we are an Air Force team and we cannot perform our mission without the entire team.

Excellence in All We Do is focusing on that team through high standards of performance, developing sound practices through our Air Force Smart Operations for the  21st Century processes and adherence to and conservation of our environmental programs. It is developing common goals similar to our vision statement to transition into a premier airlift group focused on our Army customer and our total force partnerships while improving quality of life of our Airmen and families.

As we prepare to close out the year, finish a Safety Staff Assisted Visit, work through our BRAC Site Activation Task Force and execute our mission both at Pope and while deployed, don't forget our three simple statements. Better yet, focus on chapter three of the little blue book, which says, "you don't need to be a commander in order to be a leader" and "leadership from below is at least as important as leadership from above." Remember, leadership is practiced at all levels simply by displaying our Air Force Core Values. If we practice these values in our daily lives, everything else will just fall into place. We will not have to define back to basics, lack of compliance or lack of accountability.