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Home : News : Commentaries : Display
NEWS | April 14, 2014

Integrity: Our most important core value

By Col. Frederick Boehm 437th Operations Group commander

Integrity, Service Before Self, and Excellence In All We Do. These three Air Force Core Values are what we should live by as Airmen, and are excellent values for any person to follow. But, I would like to discuss what I believe is the most important of the core values and that is integrity.

So what is integrity, why is it important and why do we have the responsibility to maintain it? If you want to know the answers, read on and I will give it my best shot.

First of all, we should start with a basic definition. According to the dictionary, integrity is a firm adherence to moral or ethical principles. What I feel is most important is the part about adherence to principles. Our principles are values that are instilled in each of us as we grow up and can be positive and negative.

For me, I think it really boils down to knowing the difference between right and wrong and always trying to do the right thing. Other words like character, honor, trust and honesty can also help you better understand the definition of integrity and those words are frequently used in descriptions of military members and that is a good thing. So why do I think integrity is so important?

Integrity is important because as Airmen we must work as a team to get our mission accomplished. No one person can accomplish our mission alone and in order to operate as an effective team, we must be able to trust the integrity of each Airman on that team to do the right thing.

Whether you are on the line turning wrenches, driving fuel trucks, processing paperwork or flying aircraft we must all trust each other to do the right thing.

As a pilot, I must trust that the maintainers have followed all the technical orders correctly before I go fly. If we can't trust each other, the team does not perform well and the mission will fail. Integrity is the glue that holds the team together and allows our Air Force to meet and exceed every challenge.

Every person has complete control over their integrity and the choices they make are what affect it. People who choose to do the right thing will maintain their integrity and people that do not do the right thing compromise their integrity and lose the trust of their fellow Airmen. Here is a quick personal example to make this important point.
I remember flying a local training mission as an instructor pilot and after departing the airport where we were training, the air traffic controller said that we had not been cleared for takeoff. My crew thought we were cleared for takeoff but we were only cleared to line up and wait. When we arrived back at the base I called our Airspace Manager to see if the controller called him about the violation. He said no one had called and not to worry about it.

This was one of life's tests of my integrity and I now had a choice to make. I could do the right thing and tell my commander or I could choose to not say anything.

Because I valued my integrity and the trust my fellow crewmembers had in me, I chose to tell my commander and accept the consequences. My commander gave me the proper downgrade for the violation and although I now had a blemish in my flying records; I had not compromised my integrity.

So how is our Air Force doing? The military continues to be ranked by the public as being among the most honest and ethical professions. However, things like sexual assault and the recent cheating scandals show there are many among us who do not do the right thing. As Air Force members, we all have the duty to do what is right. Those of us who compromise our integrity also violate the trust of our fellow Airmen, weaken the team and make it harder to accomplish the mission. Integrity is the first of our three core values and I believe it is also the most important. So always do the right thing and never compromise your integrity.