Air Force core values exemplified even in Kitty Hawk days

  • Published
  • By Lt Col Warren Ward
  • 71st Flying Training Wing
"We the people" have evolved over the past 227 years into "the land of the free and the home of the brave."
Our nation encourages service, personal excellence and progress.
We are a people intrigued with the air. Dec 17, 2003, marked the centennial of flight, an incredible journey spanning the distance from Kitty Hawk, NC to the surface of the moon.
The United States Air Force has been an integral part of the aerospace journey. Our service's heritage is rich with airpower "giants" -- people of integrity who put service before self and sought excellence in all they did. They exemplified our current core values before the concept was in vogue. Between the World Wars, airmen utilized scarce resources to develop and promote airpower. Gen Billy Mitchell zealously fought for airpower to his own military demise. While he proved the "unsinkable" German battleship Ostfrieslnad was vulnerable to air attack, he later faced a court-martial for insubordination. While "politically incorrect" in his day, General Mitchell is now honored as one of the bold knights who laid the foundation of our Air Force -- an airpower team consisting of scores of other airmen spanning over the past 100 years of flight who dedicated themselves to airpower and its contributions to our nation's security.
The nation continues to view the Air Force as a team. However, the unique capabilities of aerospace power must meld with those of ground and sea power to achieve our national objectives. We cannot do it alone All airmen are a part of our service's team, but we are also part of the greater Department of Defense team ready to defend our country, our Constitution and our way of life.
The US military is engaged against a myriad of threats around the world. Who could have imagined twenty years ago that the Soviet Union would collapse? In the aftermath, Russia is a wounded nation struggling toward an economic revival. A once menacing Soviet nuclear stockpile may have some elements for which we cannot account. State and non-state foes stand up to us. It is possible that we will see some weapon of mass destruction (nuclear, biological or chemical) used against our own citizens on our own soil. While we have ousted Saddam Hussein from Iraq, we still face opposition during the rebuilding process. Our fighting forces have removed the Taliban from power in Afghanistan and have severely degraded the Al Queda network that threw a sucker punch against our country on Sept 11, 2001, but our forces still have a job to do. While we are members of the world's finest fighting force, we find ourselves today involved in many non-traditional "trigger pulling" operations. Our unique military capabilities have saved lives in the wake of natural disasters and have allowed peace to take hold following manmade disasters such as those in Bosnia and Kosovo. Each individual member of the Air Force is crucial to facing these various challenges in this new millennium. We must draw upon our intellect, apply our unique skills and work as a team to face America's challenges. The three components of Air Force core values are critical traits necessary in each individual airman.
Integrity must be the foundation of all we do. Only men and women of integrity can stand up and deliver honest answers to tough questions. While the answer may not be what the boss wants to hear, rest assured that an honest answer, be it good or bad news, is what the boss needs to hear. Remember, if you always answer honestly, you will never have to worry about what you said. Proverbs 17:20 states, "One whose tongue is deceitful falls into trouble." In the profession of arms, a little white lie can be disastrous to people and to the mission.
Secondly, in putting service before self, airmen see the Air Force not as a career, but as a calling. The calling is answered by airmen -- volunteers one and all. Confederate Gen "Stonewall" Jackson stated, "The patriot volunteer, fighting for his country and his rights, makes the most reliable soldier upon earth." There are many reasons young people join our military. Some seek vocational training. Earning money for college and other educational benefits can be a motivator. Reserve Officer Training Corps scholarships and tuition-free service academies are roads to higher education and stepping-stone to a career. Some young officers, like our students at Vance, want to fly jets because they are "cool." Whatever the reason men and women join the US military today, they all volunteer. These volunteers are the heart and soul of our nation; volunteers who are willing to sacrifice for the liberties we hold so dear. Reflecting on this heavy responsibility, some will choose to serve their commitments, and then move on to civilian life. Others may choose to remain with a lifetime commitment to the service. All see the military as a noble call to protect the freedoms many Americans take for granted. Our military depends on everybody whether they do four years and move on or thirty years and retire. Each individual is a valuable member of the team which protects America.
Finally, when seeking excellence in all we do, we are an inspiring shining light to the nation. We are all leaders. Reaching beyond our own selfish desires and diligently serving the nation, we will achieve the victory. Gen George Patton stated, "Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by people. It is the spirit of the ones who follow and the one who leads that gains the victory." While America is fortunate to have the most technologically-advanced military the world has ever known, it still must have dedicated soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen to lead and serve. All the technology we can muster is useless without the selfless individuals of integrity who can lead and inspire troops to excellence. The standards are lofty. Simply put, we must excel in all we do, for in the sober business of our nation's security, America cannot afford to finish in second place.
We are on a fantastic voyage into a new millennium. We in uniform are America's ambassadors taking freedom's glorious light across the globe. We are warriors - experts in the art and science of warfare. We are Americans -- a people graciously blessed by God in mankind's most daring experiment of liberty. May we all assess our lives and commit ourselves to integrity, service before self and excellence in all we do.