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What are these higher standards?

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Bruce King
  • 375th Civil Engineer Squadron
Last month, retired Gen. Norton Schwartz certified AFI 1-1, Air Force Culture, the first and only Air Force Instruction to be certified by a Chief of Staff of the Air Force. Schwartz's name on the document solidifies the importance of culture as it impacts our daily operations.

The opening paragraph of the AFI sums this up well: "The importance of the Air Force's mission and inherent responsibility to the nation requires its members to adhere to higher standards than those expected in civilian life. As Airmen, we are proud of our high standards. Through self-discipline, we adhere to them, and we hold our fellow Airmen accountable to follow our standards."

What are these "higher standards?" Of course, they are the Air Force Core Values. We know them well: Integrity First; Service Before Self; Excellence In All We Do. Even though we constantly see these words on posters and murals, hear them repeatedly at commander's calls, and had them drilled into our heads at basic training, Schwartz intentionally chose to highlight the Core Values in AFI 1-1. Why?

These values define how Airmen should behave when facing challenges both in their daily lives and while carrying out their mission. Without integrity, we lose trust in our fellow Airmen, and without trust, the mission cannot be easily accomplished. "Service Before Self" reminds us of the oath we accepted--our dedication and commitment to serve this great nation trumps our personal desires. "Excellence In All We Do" drives us to constantly seek to improve ourselves, our units and the Air Force.

Examples of Airmen living out application of our Core Values easily come to mind. An Airman who finds a lost wallet on the sidewalk and reports it shows integrity. Service Before Self is embodied by the Airman who works late into the evening to get the mission done. Putting forth the extra effort to improve your fitness score illustrates excellence. These examples are clear-cut and easily recognizable, but what about the more mundane aspects of life?

Picture this: You are walking into the dining facility for some lunch, and out of the corner of your eye, you spot a piece of trash in the parking lot. Should you pick it up? "Of course!" you say. Throwing away the trash will make the base look better and, in a small way, improve the Air Force overall: Excellence in All We Do. However, the trash is not on your direct path; it will be an inconvenience to pick it up. Any Airman will tell you this doesn't matter--Service Before Self--the inconvenience doesn't bother us.

Still, something is missing. We've only talked about picking up the trash and recognized that it's the right thing to do. We haven't actually done it. Integrity is the willingness and action of doing what is right even if no one is looking. Integrity is actually going out of your way and picking up that trash.

"Living by the Core Values" isn't just a catchphrase to persuade Airmen to work more productively--it's applying the higher standard expected by our fellow Airmen as well as the nation in all aspects of our lives. The CSAF knew that when he said in AFI 1-1, the Core Values are a pillar of our shared Air Force culture. The core values provide a solid foundation and introduction to AFI 1-1--they guide Airmen when facing difficult situations, complex decisions as well as the routine tasks, mundane deeds such as picking up trash. Every act of integrity, service, and excellence enriches us, this wing, and our Air Force.