Integrity - our most vital core value

  • Published
  • By Maj Jesus A. Ramos
  • 39th Maintenance Squadron commander
The first of our core values, integrity, is our most vital. It establishes the basis for trust in our people to ensure we collectively accomplish our mission. It also sets the standard necessary for our service to remain a professional force.

A leader must trust that their people are doing their jobs and doing them right. That trust is vital to an organization's success. Without it, it's impossible for a leader to know if things are actually getting done without verifying each task themselves. Therefore, there is a need to inherently trust your people until proven otherwise. Once that trust is betrayed, it is difficult to get it back.

I had a Non Commissioned Officer who was great at her job but had problems with fitness. We provided her the required classes and gave her duty time five days a week to help her succeed. Her supervisor had complete trust in her because of her superior duty performance and would coordinate a once-a-week work-out with her. The other four sessions were accomplished with a Physical Training Leader she knew from another organization. When it came time to complete her fitness test again, she had negligible gains. It seemed quite odd since she had supposedly been working hard for almost 90 days. When I asked to speak to the PTL from the other organization who had signed her fitness improvement logs, she confessed that she had forged signatures on them for almost 60 days. She was only working out the one time a week with her supervisor. Her entire leadership chain instantly lost all trust and confidence in her. She compromised her integrity and paid for it with a stripe. She later lost another stripe for failing to progress in fitness and was ultimately discharged.

In our profession of arms, each member is entrusted to preserve our freedom and way of life. This requires that only the highest caliber of people make up our force. With integrity being the first and most important of our core values, it sets a high bar for those who want to serve. Because of this, we get the best. For the members of our profession, integrity serves as a moral compass, guiding them toward the right decisions throughout their careers and lives. Even when someone makes a wrong decision, though, integrity must not be lost.

One of my Airmen came forward one morning without being asked after another Airman had been pulled over for driving while under the influence and underage drinking. The Airman who came forward was not with him at the time of the arrest but had bought him alcohol earlier that weekend. Although never named, he felt obligated to come forward and be held accountable for his actions. Later, when an investigation was conducted in the squadron for damaged equipment, he was summarily dismissed as a suspect after being asked if he did it. His reputation for having unwavering integrity made his word beyond reproach.

Integrity is one of the few things no one can take away; you have to lose it yourself. But if you never compromise it and keep it as a personal core value, you'll always have the trust of the people around you.