Wisdom, Valor and Justice: JAG Corps principles apply to everyone

  • Published
  • By Maj. Rob Rushakoff
  • 71st Flying Training Wing Staff Judge Advocate
It's a given that one of the first things an Airmen should learn about the Air Force and mentally burn into memory are the three core values: Integrity First, Service Before Self and Excellence in All We Do. These core values are the cornerstones for a distinguished and honorable career. Much has already been written on these values. Once you learn the three core values, what do you do next? In other words, how do we-as individuals- implement these values?

Recently, the Judge Advocate General Corps developed and published three principles the Corps uses to successfully contribute to the Air Force mission: Consilium, Virtus, Justicia - Wisdom, Valor, Justice. Although these principles were formally applied by the JAG Corps, they are also principles each of us apply on a daily basis, whether you realize it or not.

Wisdom. As defined for the Corps, wisdom is the key to all we do - logically analyzing the facts, identifying issues and solution sets and communicating the right information at the right time to accomplish the mission. But this isn't limited to the legal community; it's applicable to all of us. Whether you realize it or not, all of our jobs require this analytical process. When you receive training in your areas of expertise, mix it with your experience and then apply it with a common sense application - you have just applied the principle of wisdom. Without wisdom, there can't be Excellence in All We Do.

Valor: In a time of war, physical courage rightfully comes to mind when we think of individual valor. But valor is much more than that. Valor is strength of character and the ability to overcome fear. It's also the courage of one's conviction and perseverance in the face of obstacles and, in time of war, in the face of danger. In the JAG Corps, we view valor as stepping up to decisions and the courses of actions that involve risks, opposition, adversity and difficulty. Valor is when "doing the right thing" does not come easy or naturally. It's also the reporting and handling of misconduct, the delivery of bad news and, if necessary, the respectful disagreement with the boss. The list goes on. I hate to admit it has been more then once that I heard the phrase "uh oh, the JAG is in the house." But to me, that's a compliment. Just like wisdom, valor, as viewed through a JAG's eye, applies to each Airman as well. In some cases, telling the boss "no" or reporting a criminal act of a coworker is the most heroic act of all. It may not be as colorful as securing a facility during a mortar attack in the International Zone, but it requires no less valor than the former. Without Valor, in its most simplistic or humble of forms, one cannot put Integrity First.

And then there's Justice: Justice demands we uphold what is right and fair, balanced and tempered. It's doing the right thing, getting the right result and attaining the right result for the right reason. For most, the first thing people think when it comes to justice, especially from a JAG, is discipline. As George Washington said, "discipline is the soul of an army." But it's more then discipline. It's the fair treatment of those we interact with and those we work with daily. Justice, of course, includes upholding the rule of law, promoting Constitutional ideals such as due process and equal protection and respecting the dignity of all people. Although it's easy to think this is just a JAG responsibility, it's not. Not even close. Each of us has the responsibility - no a duty - to ensure justice prevails. Justice, be it through the disciplinary process or our daily interactions with others, begins with each of us, from airman basic to general. As one anonymous Air Force paralegal put it, "without justice, there would be no freedom."

Consilium, Virtus, Justicia ( Wisdom, Valor, Justice) may sound Latin to you, but that should be in name alone. The next time you're faced with a difficult situation - let's say seeing an Airmen fail to salute the commander's official vehicle or fail to wear his or her cover outdoors -application of the principles of wisdom, valor and justice will, and should, begin right then and there. Anything less is a failure to meet the Air Force's core values.