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NEWS | March 17, 2015

The Military Common Core

By Lt. Col. Patrick Miller 628th Civil Engineer Squadron commander

In an effort to better prepare our youth for success after high school, many states are adopting what are known as the Common Core State Standards.  The Common Core focuses on developing critical-thinking, problem-solving and analytical skills in the areas of mathematics and English.  The intent is a more developed, well-rounded generation ready to tackle the rigors of college, career and life.

Our five branches of military service also teach a Common Core curriculum.  Through daily lessons - mentoring, on-the-job training and other interactions - leaders instill a few basic tenets that serve as the foundation for success.  We know them more commonly as our Core Values.  The Army has seven Core Values, whereas the Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and Air Force each have three Core Values.  Add the 14 Marine Corps Leadership Traits and you have the five Services' Common Core.

Over the last few years, I was assigned to two joint bases, graduated from the Naval War College, worked at the Pentagon and deployed as part of a joint task force.  These assignments, as well as several deployments in support of our sister services, enabled me to witness firsthand all five Services' respective Core Values, values such as Duty, Honor, Integrity, Courage, Commitment, Service, Respect and Excellence. 
Core Values are the baseline -your entry level requirements - for the respective services.  They shape our most basic actions.  From execution of the various missions to the way service members treat each other, the Core Values consistently serve as the underlying framework for our decision making process.

Although each service establishes its culture through its Core Values, I believe there is a common theme.  The services' Core Values can be distilled to two simple words - Character and Competence.  As such, Character and Competence make up the Department of Defense's Common Core.

Character defines us as individuals.  It takes a certain Character to earn the privilege of donning the uniform.  Attributes such as integrity, loyalty, courage, honor and respect are all critical to the type of person we want defending our freedom.  A sense of comfort exists when you look left and then look right and know that regardless of the uniform, the person standing next to you has the same core Character as you.

Competence addresses how you execute the mission.  Excellence, duty and commitment merely scratch the surface.  Our service members strive to be the most proficient Soldier, Sailor, Marine, Coast Guardsmen or Airmen possible.  They are dedicated to honing their craft to ensure when they are called upon to act, they are ready to perform unwaveringly.

However, Character and Competence do not work in isolation; they must co-exist.  You can be of high Character, but, if you do not have the Competence to execute the mission, you can be a good person in the private sector.  Conversely, you can be the most competent firefighter (or pick a trade) but, if you lack the Character essential to serve our nation, you can be a proficient firefighter outside of the military.

Character and Competence, they are the foundation that makes us the world's most professional and lethal military force in history.  Over the coming days, weeks, months and years, I challenge you to remain steadfast of Character, continue to build Competence and challenge those around you to live up to our Common Core.