Integrity: the first in line of the three Air Force Core Values. This value is inscribed into every Airman from day one of basic military training.
According to Webster’s Dictionary, it is an “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character, and honesty.” We also know it as doing what is right when no one else is looking.
Each member of the Air Force enters the service with a distinct moral character. Some people are hard chargers and ready to jump into every task assigned them. Others are more laid back, doing the minimum work required to get the job done. There are also those whose focus is related to anything but the Air Force and its mission, and usually do not make a long-term commitment to the military lifestyle.
Each ethical characteristic we possess may have been taught to us since childhood as we learned from morals and principles that showed us right and wrong. Once we enter into a commitment with the military, it is up to us to maintain knowledge of right and wrong, as it could ultimately determine success or failure in one’s career.
Integrity is not just about doing the right thing when no one else is watching. Rather, it involves many pieces of a moral puzzle where the pieces are made up of honesty, courage, accepting responsibility and accountability for one’s actions, and also respect self and others. It also means being able to stand up and correct a fellow team member or peer when they are not meeting the Air Force standards. This can be something as minor as cutting the wayward thread from an Airman’s uniform sleeve, to telling someone their faded and damaged uniform should be replaced at once. This should be a favorable act for both people involved. It serves to remind both Airmen of the importance of displaying the proper image of their professions for others to recognize.
So the next time you’re walking on base and see litter on the sidewalk, do not be afraid to pick it up and dispose of it properly. Or if you are doing a morning run with fellow Airmen and see one struggle to keep up, fall back to help that Airman finish the workout. Ultimately, if you show integrity and do the right thing, the eyes of peers and leadership will see you, and they will remember it in the future.