Why ‘Integrity First?’
As an Airman, have you ever asked yourself the question, “In our core values, why is integrity first?” Integrity is the quality of being honest, being true to one’s self. It is also about wholeness and being undivided. Integrity speaks both of one’s character and the unity of the object in question. But why should integrity be first in our Air Force? Perhaps a good way to answer the question is to ask it in reverse, what would happen if integrity wasn’t first?
If integrity wasn’t first, competition would become nasty. After all who would play by the rules and model sportsmanship? Lack of integrity divides the focus on the mission by different parties. Without integrity first, duplicity would become the norm. Significant time would be spent on figuring out what is truth rather than making decisions. Without integrity first, bottom lines would be skewed to serve selfish interests. Intel would be tainted. Positions defined by uncompromising guidance, such as security forces, command, and our judicial system couldn’t be trusted or they could be swayed by influencing forces. Without integrity first, who would fly an aircraft, not knowing if the repairs were completed as reported?
In his book, “Mere Morality,” Lewis Smedes writes, “Truthfulness is one more invisible fiber that holds people together in humane community. When we cannot assume that people communicating with us are truthful, we cannot live with them in trust that they will respect our right to freedom to respond to reality. If we cannot trust each other to respect this basic right, we have lost our chance to be human together in God’s manner … Speak the truth, be the truth, for your truth sets others free.”
Having integrity is absolutely essential to our Air Force. Integrity allows for freedom of movement. Integrity opens the doors of development and growth. Integrity protects against missteps and creates an environment to protect those you love. Integrity creates character. It takes courage to tell the truth when others do not. When a friend says, “I got your six,” integrity builds confidence knowing they will support you in the fight. As pastor Tim Keller said, “There is no higher priority for a healthy society than to have truthful communications.” More devastating than an ICBM, if we lose our integrity, we will slowly collapse from within. Integrity must be first!
As a person of faith, the one source that helps me most to be truthful is the Almighty. Reading his principles and experiencing his eternal gaze challenges me when I’m tempted to seek the quick “save face” selfish out. He also helps me when I need to correct a false statement I have made. As you face a host of challenges and temptations to not be forthright in your communication, may you consider the importance your integrity brings to the fight, your family and our nation. Your integrity is priceless to the World’s Greatest Air Force. Don’t compromise Integrity First!