The Air Force Core Values of Integrity First, Service Before Self and Excellence in All We Do, are not just a way to support our country and the U.S. Air Force, but more importantly a framework for approaching life and all of our different roles to be better men and women and support those we love and care about. We all have many different jobs, roles, and responsibilities, such as being a father or mother (or brother or sister or son or daughter), Air Force Reserve Airman, civilian job, community activities (coach, Boy Scout leader, church member), friend or family member, etc. We all try our best, within our limitations, to do a good job in all of those different roles. Keeping in mind the Air Force Core Values inside and outside our roles as Airmen can help us do a better job in all of those roles and ultimately can help all of those different communities and our entire country be stronger.
Integrity, or having the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles, is the fabric that holds together all other aspects of our jobs and lives. Regardless of our title or position in life, we are all mentors and leaders for everyone around us, including those above us, those having a similar status, and those subordinate to us. Another way to describe integrity is having strong character. When I was young, one of my Boy Scout leaders described character as “doing the right thing when nobody is looking.” Whether you think so or not, everyone around you is always looking at you, so being honest in your daily life, trustworthy, reliable, and moral are vital to being a good person, mentor, and leader.
As a good person, mentor and leader, it helps to put others needs before your own.
Service before self is both a military and a personal moral obligation. My role as a military physician is my personal way to live this core value: my father was in the Korean War, my grandfather was in World War II, and three of my older cousins were in the Air Force, so accepting a USAF scholarship to pay for medical school was very important for me to honor my family and all those who have served, and to pay back the country and the service that paid all of my medical school tuition. I got out of the Air Force briefly before September 11, 2001, and like many of us, promptly signed back up to serve again shortly after that infamous day in history. I remind my four young boys that the United States is the only country on Earth where you can decide at any time in your life, regardless of age or station in life, to study, advance your education or career, or follow any dream you want – we truly live in the land of opportunity. Finding a way to live service before self can take many forms, such as serving in the military, working in a career to serve others, community volunteering, or anything that puts the good of others before your own.
Whether performing the mission or serving others, take pride in doing the best job you can do.
Excellence in all we do is a mindset of giving it your best, striving to continually improve yourself, and expecting the same from others. This value overlaps with the two other values of integrity and service. Equally important is helping others around you to improve by training them appropriately, mentoring them, giving them chances to fail and learn from their mistakes, and being kind and empathic in your daily interactions. As a physician and Air Force officer, excellence pertains to obvious skills of accurate diagnosis and documentation, but also excellence in providing compassionate and kind care to patients as well as colleagues. I see mentorship and teaching as essential components to individual excellence. Teaching others the art and craft of my role as a physician and military officer is both vital to maintaining Air Force and healthcare excellence, but it is also a moral and service obligation: the Hippocratic Oath says, “I will respect the [knowledge and experience] of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.” I love teaching new or younger Air Force officers, medical students, residents, nurses, physician assistants, and all other professionals with whom I have the honor to work on a daily basis. We are ALL professionals regardless of our job. It is a tremendous honor to be a physician and also to serve in the U.S. Air Force, and I look forward to many more years of integrity, service, and excellence.