The Importance of the Air Force Core Values

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Adam Willemssen
  • 459th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron

From time to time we are all reminded of the Air Force’s three Core Values - Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do.  Whether in a Commander’s Call, a Professional Military Education graduation, or a retirement ceremony, it is common practice to discuss the words and the meanings of each.

This level of discussion works to remind us of the meaning of the words and refreshes our cognitive definition of each value, but this level of discussion stops short of demonstrating why this dialog is important.  Cognitive level discussions do not lead to behavioral changes in the affective domain.  Instead of asking you what our Core Values are, I ask you, why are our Core Values important?  Why are they important to you?  Why are they important for service in the Air Force? 

To me, they are important because they set the foundation for trust and trustworthiness within our organization.  Trust is an important factor in mission execution as well as innovation.  Trust is a requisite for superior performance.  Trust allows for the force multiplying effects of delegation and distributed decision making.  Without trust, our effectiveness is limited. 

Your leadership, AFSC training, and professional military education cannot possibly prepare you for every challenging situation you will run into throughout your career.  We can periodically review our Core Values and, in doing so, reinforce a common reference point from which you can base your future decisions.  This deeper kind of discussion assists in creating a culture of empowerment and encourages leaders at all levels to maximize their individualized and group contributions. 

Demonstrate that you understand and embody the Core Values by doing what’s right, by taking care of your wingmen, by serving others to the best of your ability, and by excelling in your specialty.  Whatever your rank, if you do this well, you will be rewarded with more responsibility and increased decision-making ability.  

Our Core Values remain an important component of our Air Force experience.  They are a small but significant part of the whole experience.  Whatever your role, I challenge you to celebrate and honor them in everything you do.