During the honors banquet that concluded the conference, Donley said the Air Force would be able to meet the challenges of a dynamic strategic environment and current fiscal constraints due to the unrivaled quality and professionalism of America’s airmen – in particular its noncommissioned officers.
“Our NCO corps is the envy of every other military in the world,” Donley said. “The world has seen nothing like it. And for that, we owe many of you here tonight a great debt of gratitude.”
Considering the importance of a professional force, the secretary said it is vital that the Air Force continue to develop the quality Airmen the service needs: Airmen who uphold standards, embrace the Air Force culture and conduct themselves in a manner consistent with the service’s core values.
“Lately, all of us in the Air Force family and across the country have been shocked and troubled by the allegations of professional and sexual misconduct by basic training instructors at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland,” Donley said. “The misconduct alleged has no place in our Air Force culture. It is especially egregious when it occurs in the Basic Military Training environment.”
The Air Force is taking aggressive steps to assist the victims and increase protection for airmen undergoing training, he said.
“I expect command-directed investigations to identify any systemic failures and develop recommendations for reform to prevent such behavior,” the secretary added.
While Donley told the audience it is important that all airmen remain watchful for those who become lax or fall into criminal behavior, he also affirmed that the vast majority of the service’s members fulfill the obligations of their oath and maintain the highest standards.
One way to maintain those high standards is by focusing on the basics, Donley said. To that end, he encouraged all Airmen to read the new Air Force Instruction 1-1, entitled “Air Force Standards.”
This new instruction combines standards of conduct from many different instructions to give airmen a single reference guide.
“I ask all of you to go to our governing documents and read Air Force Instruction 1-1,” Donley said. “I encourage you to discuss this instruction with your fellow NCOs and the airmen in your charge. We expect Airmen to follow these rules, and these instructions plainly describe the values, the customs and courtesies, the conduct and the standards of behavior we require.”
Leaders at every level have an obligation to adhere to and enforce Air Force standards, the secretary said.
“But the Air Force especially depends on our noncommissioned officers,” he said. “We are counting on you to ensure airmen do their utmost to live by the Air Force core values and standards of conduct at all times.”
Donley told the audience that they have every right to be proud of the Air Force, and that no one should forget the hundreds of thousands of airmen who do what is right every day. He added that he hopes the airmen at the conference will take what they learned back to their units, to further strengthen the service.