Integrity first. Service before self. Excellence in all we do.
These are the U.S. Air Force core values. From the day a person swears in, he or she is expected to incorporate these ideals into work, study, and even play. They are expected to embed these values in their hearts. They are expected to live these core values, but how many can say they really do?
I recently heard a “horror” story about two junior enlisted Airmen. Every day at 5 p.m., “Retreat” sounds, followed by the playing of the National Anthem. If you should happen to be outside at that time in uniform, you are to turn and face the music, or the flag if visible, and stand at parade rest for “Retreat” then attention, rendering a salute, at the first note of the National Anthem. These two Airmen were seen by a senior non-commissioned officer not only not standing at parade rest during “Retreat” but actually running to their cars. These same Airmen are probably guilty of dodging commissioned officers or staff cars for the same purpose of not having to render a salute.
This is not only unacceptable, it is downright disrespectful to the flag and the Airmen that are fighting today and fought in days past. Warriors who were injured and lost their right arm or the use of their right arm. There is legislation in place that now allows battle wounded warriors to salute with their left arm. When it means so much to wounded warriors, how can a fully capable Airman think it is okay to do less?
This lack of display in the core values even transfers over to the wear of uniforms. Every U.S. Air Force member, from the straight-out-of-basic-training Airman to a four-star General, is responsible for representing the Air Force. For most, that first impression comes from how the uniform is worn. I have seen Airmen on and off base, coming out of or going into stores and other buildings, or just standing in parking lots not adhering to our uniform regulations. I have seen things from someone simply not wearing his or her cover to some walking and talking with his ABU top off, sand t-shirt not tucked in, and pants legs not bloused or tucked.
I argue that the Airman above was not displaying the Air Force core values, but I have to also call myself on a lackluster display as well.
By all rights, I should have at least walked up to that Airman and told him to fix himself until he was no longer in a public place where anyone could see him, but I did not. I did not want to be that Airman known for correcting other Airmen. I did not want to be disliked, and because I felt that way, I also tarnished the core values I should hold dear. Furthermore, would it not have been better that I, a fellow junior enlisted Airman, correct another Airman rather than an SNCO or officer?
I write this to challenge not only myself but others as well to not dishonor and disrespect our core values and those that came before us, to correct others appropriately in hopes of making them better Airmen, and to just do what we know is right.