The Core Values are Always There
By Lt. Col. Colin Smyth, 35th MDSS
/ Published July 29, 2008
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan --
Adversity can take many forms. How one deals with it reveals much about a person's character, and our Air Force Core Values can serve as a solid foundation to build upon in times of both personal and professional adversity. In fact, they are at their best as guideposts for our actions when times are tough.
As a squadron commander, I am responsible for enforcing discipline and imposing punishment on members of my command, when necessary. Fortunately, those instances are few and far between. However, recently I have had the opportunity to witness two events in my squadron, and reflect on the way the two Airmen involved dealt with the consequences. One, unfortunately, decided to abandon them completely following the first transgression. The other realized that no matter what the situation, the core values still mattered, and still provided a path to follow. "Service before self" is the particular core value that comes to mind. To me, this core value means commitment - commitment to your oath, your unit, your duty.
Take the case of the first Airman. He made a bad choice that led to disciplinary action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Unfortunately, in this case, the wheels of justice turned slowly and when faced with the time to think about the enormity and reality of his first mistake, he made a series of additional decisions. Each one was bad, and took him further and further from the guidepost of our core values, and further off vector and away from his commitment to service. Yet each decision was his alone. His choice, in aggregate, was "self before service," and his actions revealed more about his character and intent than any written appeal ever could- his choice to make, and now his consequence to bear.
The case of the second Airman is similar only to a point. She made poor choices in her lifestyle that made her unable to fulfill her commitment to the Air Force, by being unable to meet the physical fitness standards. In today's Air Force, the guidance is clear, and consequences for this transgression are unambiguous. However, when faced with this reality, she did not choose to abandon the core values. Rather, she honored her commitment and continued to serve to the best of her ability - she worked hard, and set the example for her section in that regard, until the day she walked out the door for the last time. It goes without saying, of course, I wish she had applied that same commitment and sense of service to her lifestyle choices, but she didn't, in spite of the strong efforts of the team around her. None the less, her actions and contributions to the unit while facing the consequences for her choices are an eloquent testimony to her character, regardless of her mistakes.
In the end, how these particular Airmen dealt with the consequences of their actions did not change the outcome. It goes without saying that neither should have found themselves in their respective situations to begin with, but their actions in dealing with the consequences illuminated the point that the core values are always there for you; always waiting to help guide your actions in the right direction - and someone is always watching.