The Air Force core values and how we look at them

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Darryl McLean
  • 72nd Aerial Port Squadron commander

Becoming the commander of the 72nd Aerial Port Squadron was one of the greatest opportunities in my life, as well as my career. Initially, I had concerns about how it would all work out, considering I was a finance officer cross-training into logistics.

A question came to me, “How would I lead a great group of Airmen with very little technical knowledge of the position?”

The answer came in the form of the Air Force core values. ‘Integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do’ is not just a slogan to remember and repeat; it is also a fantastic guideline for how we should carry out our Air Force career.

‘Integrity’ seems like an obvious term and fairly easy to live by for all of us. My question to everyone is ‘Do you really think so?’ Do we as Airmen really apply this to our work? Yes, we provide the correct answers on whatever document we fill out. Yes, we follow the technical order to repair an aircraft.

But, are we using integrity towards ourselves? Are you really exercising the way you should to pass your physical fitness test? Are you answering the question your supervisor asked in the right manner, or is it skewed just a little so you do less work?

I am sure there are many other questions that may come to mind as one reads this, but the truth of the matter is maybe we need to look at this word ‘integrity’ a little harder and apply it to our careers with a whole-hearted attitude. Respect will be the by-product from it and admiration from your peers will always be the result.

‘Service before self’ takes the mindset I’m addressing even further for us all. When practicing ‘service before self,’ an Airman is willing to stay late on a Sunday to ensure a member’s performance report is written in a professional manner. It means looking at the duty you are about to perform and making sure your peers are ready also. It sometimes means sacrificing your time, knowledge and capabilities to help others advance. However, the reward from doing so is incredible!

‘Excellence in all we do’ is probably the most overlooked of the core values. If truly applied to an Airman’s career one would look at the duties they perform in a much different manner. It means knowing what is necessary to get the maximum score on your physical fitness test; not what will permit you to pass. It means that an Airman ensures the document is filled out correctly the first time, even if it means asking questions to get it right. It means an Airman is ready to do the duties assigned to them at any given moment while performing at the highest level they are capable of. It’s a tough standard by any means, yes. Nonetheless, it will empower an Airman to have a great career.

Looking at the core values in this manner I am positive they will permit me to lead and represent the great Airmen of the 72nd APS. I also believe that any Airmen, at any level, can take the concepts of the Air Force core values and be extremely successful in their career.