Why integrity

PETERSON AFB, Colo. -- Many years ago, when I worked on a flight line, the master sergeant I worked for imparted this maxim: "First, learn the rule, then learn the reason behind the rule, then you don't have to worry so much about the rule any more."

That might have been a satisfactory view back then while installing navigation equipment in an F4-D Phantom, but I believe it borders on "good enough for government work" and minimizes the value of integrity.

Now, we're in the middle of a shooting war fighting for the survival of our nation. There are people around who don't believe it because their memories of 9/11 tend to be no more permanent than the average 30 minute sitcom.

The fact remains: people who want us dead are still active and plotting against us relentlessly. This is a real war, not just a political manipulation. Why then, is our integrity so important? To put it succinctly, it's because we serve in the world's finest military for the absolute best country on the planet.

The "main-scream" media today has a penchant for bashing our leaders, our government, our people and our mission. This bashing sells newspapers, gets ratings on radio and television, and can cause us to wonder about our own worth. It sometimes seems rather unfair that we in the military face such close and painful scrutiny.

Upon reflection, however, would we really want it any other way? Our integrity as a fighting force dictates that our actions be so moral and honorable that we don't have to be concerned about what a vocal group of talking heads in the media says. We serve in the world's finest military for the absolute best country on the planet.

It might seem a little "over the top" to believe we're the best, especially since so many people want to convince us otherwise. I believe it's fundamental to our survival to know we're the best.

Our young men and women don't work and fight and die for anything or anybody less than the very best. There is nothing shameful in being a nationalist, a patriot, a lover of one's country. We have to get rid of the guilt trip defeatists among us would have us embrace, for those defeatists are no better than our external enemies. They want to bring us down for the sake of their own political agendas. Our integrity steels our resolve in the face of this internal threat as we remember: we serve in the world's finest military for the absolute best country on the planet.

Since we're the best, it naturally follows that we consistently do the best job possible. Our integrity demands that we turn that master sergeant's maxim around: we first internalize the reason behind the rule: we serve in the world's finest military for the absolute best country on the planet. Then our love for our country compels us to follow the rules, not blindly, but cognizant of our oath to serve the people of this great place.

We always find the best way to "get 'er done." We willingly follow and honor our leaders. We don't let staffing or paperwork or personalities stand in the way of the mission. We aren't concerned about just looking good. We are good. Because we're good, our OPRs, EPRs and civilian appraisals are no more than a footnote to our real work: the serious business of defending our beloved country. We serve in the world's finest military for the absolute best country on the planet.

Integrity, our first and most important core value, comes from the Latin root "integer," meaning whole and undivided. It means that as military members, what we do externally is governed by what we believe internally without conflict or division. As an integral whole, we subscribe to a moral ethical code that places excellence and service to this nation above all else.

Integrity must come first; without it the other two core values can't exist. We embrace integrity because we serve in the world's finest military for the absolute best country on the planet.

I've repeated this phrase six times - may we never, ever forget it.