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Integrity part of personal standards

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- As Airmen, integrity is our first core value. It is often considered a cornerstone of good moral character. Integrity is sometimes defined as doing the right thing even when no one is watching. This definition of integrity is credited to writer C.S. Lewis and is sometimes relegated to a slogan used in motivational posters, corporate literature, self-help books and even on the cafeteria wall at my son's old elementary school.

This definition of integrity has even made its way into Air Force Instruction 1-1, Air Force Standards, as part of its discussion on core values. I like this definition because it's simple. Unfortunately, this definition unwittingly draws our attention to the fact that some people stray from doing what is right when no one is looking.

Recently, news of intercontinental ballistic missile launch officers implicated in a cheating probe has prompted discussions of Airmen's integrity both within the Air Force and in society at large. Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, made it very clear that this cheating was "a violation of that first core principle of 'integrity first.'" While these types of incidents get a lot of publicity, I believe that day-to-day, most Airmen get it right.

There are also other definitions of integrity that applies to us as Airmen. We all play a part in ensuring our Air Force remains complete, unimpaired and sound. One of the ways we contribute to the integrity of our Air Force is by fostering an organizational climate of dignity and respect for all Airmen. A lot of emphasis has been placed on sexual assaults in the military lately. Many cite as a major contributing factor the existence of an organizational climate which tolerates, and sometimes perpetuates, behaviors which debase individuals. These behaviors serve to divide us and impair our ability to accomplish the mission, contributing to the erosion of our integrity from the inside out. Organizational climate is so important that performance reports for both officers and enlisted must now include the member's contribution to their organization's climate along with primary duty performance. All Airmen are responsible for creating an organizational climate in which every member is treated with dignity and respect. Everyone is important to the fight. As Welsh put it in his Dec. 18, 2013, letter to the Airmen of the U.S. Air Force, "every single person around you brings something to the fight that you don't."

We all make daily choices which reveal our own personal standards of integrity and affect the integrity of our Air Force. What time do we show up for and leave work? When we tell our supervisor that we are going to the gym do we actually go? Do we speak up when we see something wrong? Do we report or correct inappropriate behavior? Do we help create a work environment where everyone is treated with dignity and respect? Every Airman is a leader; whether a commander with UCMJ authority or a young Airman setting a positive example. Each of us plays a vital role in shoring up the integrity of our Air Force.

I remember years ago talking with a young NCO who would complain that on several occasions, the Air Force tried to "do him wrong" but each time a supervisor stepped in to correct the situation and get things back on track. I informed him that in each of these situations his supervisor "was" the Air Force and the system worked. I also emphasized that it was his responsibility to be the Air Force for the folks he supervises and carry on the tradition of taking care of our people.

The integrity of our Airmen and the integrity of our Air Force go hand-in-hand. As our personal integrity goes, so goes our Air Force. The fervency of our efforts and honesty of our deeds contribute immensely to our strength. I invite all Airmen to ask themselves: If every Airman had my integrity, what kind of Air Force would we be?