Living Air Force core values

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, GERMANY -- I'll start by stating what you all pretty much know ... Air Force life is a wonderful experience, but it can be really tough! The rewards can be considerable - intense camaraderie, pride in patriotism, membership in a "socially elite family," and opportunities to live in cultures our civilian counterparts rarely experience, to name a few. However, we also increasingly experience deployments, budget and personnel cuts, aging equipment, etc. You know it, you live it. But in light of these challenges, what does it take to cultivate a successful and rewarding career? Three ideas come to my mind that are relevant to the Air Force we live in right now. 

You've heard it a million times, and you're probably sick of it, but we must first and foremost "Live the Air Force Core Values." Even civilian companies have some guiding philosophy or catch phrase, but I truly believe we scored a direct hit with ours. Every aspect of Air Force life is captured with "Integrity First, Service Before Self and Excellence In All We Do." Why does a pilot have the innate trust to strap on a jet that a young, but proud staff sergeant crew chief inspects and calls airworthy? It is because of that maintainer's integrity. Why does that senior airman from security forces volunteer for a second eight-month rotation to the desert after being home for only four months since his last deployment? It's because he chooses Services Before Self. And how does a master sergeant running Airman Leadership School churn out motivated senior airmen ready to accept NCO responsibility? It's because he and his cadre instill (and live) the idea of Excellence in all we do. Now ask yourself, "Do I do the same?" 

The second idea is to be a catalyst for positive change. It's easy to be the guy (everybody knows one) who gains popularity by criticizing supervision and finding ways around doing things right. Those people are a cancer to morale in a unit! Right now, we have opportunities to make positive changes in everyday processes that are absolutely unprecedented. Budget and personnel cuts certainly increase our challenges, but Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century is your ticket to make things happen at all levels. Incredible time and monetary savings could come from even the brand new airman 1st class who views an old process with fresh eyes and simply asks, "Why don't we do it like this?" You don't need a degree in physics to see, suggest and implement changes in your area of responsibility that can have powerful, positive results to you and your unit. Leaders at all levels want and need your ideas to make the Air Force more efficient, and they've never been more receptive than right now! So - what positive changes are you making in your unit? 

The final idea is to know, accept and operate within your limitations. Doing things smarter and faster does not come at the cost of safety. A senior master sergeant mentor of mine used to use the phrase, "Know your role, own your role." Learn your job, inside and out - be the "go-to guy" by virtue of your knowledge and skill; don't overstep your personal boundaries in an attempt to "do more with less." There will likely come a point when you have to tell your boss that what they're asking you to do is simply unsafe. We ask so much of our troops, leaders at all levels must know the difference between process change for gains in efficiency versus simply cutting corners. 

Challenges abound in every career field with the PBD 720 cuts, high ops tempo and seemingly unending mission requirements: Every day, I have to ask myself one of these questions in some shape or form: "Do I live the core values? What kind of fresh ideas and positivity do I bring to my unit? Can I balance change and innovation with good common sense?" The U.S. military is held in very high regard by the citizens of our country, and our allies as well. We owe it to them to make sure we live up to their expectations, and continue to provide them with a blanket of freedom that will remain unquestioned.