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Integrity first!

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- Why integrity first? There is a terrific reason why our Air Force Core Values start with "integrity first." It's because integrity is the foundation of good character and manifests itself in a willingness to do what is right even when no one is looking. Integrity is comprised honesty, responsibility, courage and accountability. It makes Airmen who they are and what they stand for and it's a huge part of their professional reputation. You can't have integrity only during duty hours or when it's important to look good. Rather, integrity is critical at the time we least expect to be challenged.

Those of us in uniform are charged with understanding, accepting and demonstrating the Air Force Core Values. Our Air Force will not survive without them because they are the bedrock of leadership and provide the moral framework for all Air Force activities; it's impossible without integrity.

We've probably all heard the phrase, "All you have is your word." In my experience as a first sergeant, I've dealt with many misconduct issues and several of them were caused by a lack or breech of integrity. Believe me; once you've demonstrated a lapse in integrity, it takes a long time for people to trust you again, if ever at all. It's that serious. It's that vital.

I believe we all possess integrity, but on occasion don't always use it. This is unfortunate because integrity is that inner voice or "moral compass," and the voice of self-control that should compel us to make the right decision even when no one is looking. Former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael E. Ryan said it best, "We have wonderful people in the Air Force. But we aren't perfect. Frequent reflection on the core values helps each of us refocus on the person we want to be and the example we want to set."

It all starts with integrity first!