An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : News : Commentaries : Display
NEWS | March 15, 2016

What is your integrity worth?

By CMSgt. Mark Bronson, command chief 628th ABW

Would you compromise your integrity for something of no value? Would you squander your integrity for something of minor value or temporary pleasure? You might think these questions are silly. No one would compromise their integrity for such trivial things, or would they?

Recently, I played a softball game with teams comprised of coaches and managers from the local youth baseball program. During the game, our outfielder dove for a fly ball making what looked like the final out of the inning. The umpire called it a catch but the other team quickly appealed, saying the player trapped the ball and it was not a clean catch.

The umpire admitted his view was obstructed so he asked our player, "Be honest and tell me - did you make the catch?"  Without hesitation, he answered, "Yes" and the umpire upheld the call. Going into the dugout, our player quickly told our team he didn't catch it and they all began laughing about it. In fact, they joked he had become a "true" member of the team with his actions.

Driving home I reflected on the incident.  I couldn't believe this individual would give his integrity away for an out in a recreational softball game. Really? He lied to get an out in a ball game. Even more unsettling, he was a baseball coach for our children. What was he teaching them at practice and in games? What type of example was he setting while he was around them?

I imagined if I worked with this guy and had witnessed that behavior, how could I trust him to have my back or do his job properly? If he was my supervisor, would he sell me out so cheaply?

I then began to think about our military and some of the high-profile cases in the news where our members have sold or given their integrity away for personal gain or a brief moment of pleasure.

While all our core values are important, I believe integrity is the building block upon which our military foundation is built. Each day, we are faced with situations that challenge our integrity. We are faced with decisions. Do we do what is right, even when no one would be the wiser? Or do we choose another path? Do we put our own wants and desires above what is right?

It may be a small item such as walking by a safety violation or not following a checklist or technical order. It may be hearing an inappropriate conversation or witnessing inappropriate behavior. Do we let it slip and justify it as that is just how they are? Do we convince ourselves it's just a small thing, it won't cause any harm?  Having integrity means doing the right thing, taking action and addressing the inappropriate behavior or comments. Why? Because even the smallest breach could snowball and destroy the moral of a unit, or worse, result in the loss of one of our teammates.

Clearly, a great majority of our members make the correct choices each and every day. However, in light of some of the larger issues our military is facing, can we really afford even a small percentage who lack integrity? We must expect and demand the highest integrity from everyone and be willing to take action when we witness those who don't meet that standard.

Integrity requires constant vigilance to build and maintain and can be destroyed in an instant. One poor decision can cost you your reputation as a person of integrity. Once compromised, it is difficult to regain, maybe impossible, depending on the seriousness of the lapse in judgment.

So I ask you again, what is your integrity worth? I believe integrity is priceless. Treasure, nurture and protect it. Do not toss it away frivolously!