Air Force Core Value: Integrity First

  • Published
  • By Maj. Gabriel Avilla
  • 49th Communications Squadron, commander
The bonds that we share while serving in the military are forged on the Air Force Core Value of Integrity First. There are few civilian equivalents that can compare to the levels of trust a team must have in one another to ensure mission success, and ultimately, the protection of our freedoms.

As we enter into combat zones around the world, we share mission responsibilities to our commander and to one another, and that degree of trust is based upon a shared concept that our integrity is above reproach. I recently re-enlisted one of my non-commissioned officers, and a key phrase in the oath is, "I will obey the lawful orders of the President and the officers appointed over me." As a squadron commander I take this responsibility seriously, and I ensure my decisions are based on what is the right thing to do not just in individual cases, but also as an enduring practice.

As the first Air Force Core Value, take notice that Integrity First actually starts within each and every one of us. This core value is an individual responsibility to uphold and maintain. Your supervisor, spouse or commander is not responsible for your integrity:  you are! As wonderful and abundant in number we have them on base, there are no support agencies that can make an integrity-based decision for you. Each of us holds an important position that enables the success of Team Holloman. If we succumb to negative external pressures and make decisions that we know are inherently wrong, the very foundation of the Air Force can be lost.

If making the easy decision instead of the right decision becomes the norm, we have lost the luster that separates us from our civilian counterparts. We have lost the belief and trust given to us by our local communities that we are upholding the righteous and just causes of the world. That vital responsibility falls squarely on each of us individually, but to simply hold a position of integrity is not enough. We need to challenge one another as a responsible wingman to put this belief into practice daily. One can think about doing the right thing all day, but unless they are courageous enough to see that decision through, the belief becomes hollow and falls short of the high standards we have set for each other.

The importance of integrity is reflected in every action we take daily whether they are big or small in nature. Whether it's performing a vital pre-flight check before take-off or paying for the piece of fruit from your unit's snack bar (you have fruit there, right?), your personal integrity should be held intact through every decision you make.

At the basis of making a decision that upholds the integrity of the individual, is making the right choice in one scenario more important than not making a right choice in another? The answer is no. While the degrees of danger vary tremendously between the two situations, there is an expected pattern of behavior that we in the Air Force share on how each of us should act, and it is their individual responsibility to do so. There is no reward or medal any of us can achieve for maintaining our integrity. The eventual payback is strengthening the trust and bond we share with one another in service to our nation.

Emotion and ego can play mind tricks on you, often leading you to thinking the easy way is the right way. The moment you attempt to rationalize your decision based on what could be personally gained or lost, you are in dangerous territory of losing yourself and rattling our foundation as a team.

In a world where force management programs and budget challenges continue to have impacts on our lives, the one factor you can control daily is your degree of integrity. At the end of the day, if you know in your heart that you put into practice the Air Force Core Value: Integrity First, every day can feel like a victory.