Ethical behavior is priceless

  • Published
  • By Capt. Anthony Phillips
  • 48th Fighter Wing Legal Office
“Integrity First” is the primary, foremost and most often repeated core value for Air Force servicemembers. Ultimately, it seems clearly accepted that doing the right thing, even when no one is looking, is the bedrock on which our Air Force culture is built. But the question remains, what does integrity look like?

Brig. Gen. SLA Marshall stated in his book, The Armed Forces Officer, “He has integrity if his interest in the good of the service is at all times greater than his personal pride, and when he holds himself to the same line of duty when unobserved as he would follow if all of his superiors were present.”

This quote from 1950 is no less applicable more than half a century later to all Airmen, and it sums up the last two of our core values.

“Service before Self,” is putting one’s fellow Airmen and the good of the nation before our personal pride; “Excellence in All We Do,” is holding oneself to the highest standards even when our supervisor, first sergeant or commander isn’t around to see it -- at our jobs, in our homes, even on the athletic field. Of course, at the end of the day, only our own personal integrity will confirm the virtuousness of our actions. We have to be our own judges -- on a daily basis.

What does this mean for you as an Air Force member? Why did this judge advocate take the time to put these thoughts on paper? Because by returning to the core values, we truly reveal the characteristics of the type of ethical behavior that should be the goal of every American, not just every servicemember. Ethical behavior will ensure we get good performance reviews. It will ensure we stay out of trouble. And, most importantly, ethical behavior on the part of all Airmen will ensure each of us gets to live in the type of community we all prefer: one that is friendly, stable and safe.

There is never a just reason for a departure from our core values in the Air Force. “I just had too much to drink ... ”, or “That decision was unfair ... ”, or “I saw so-and-so do it ... ” are all nothing more than excuses -- discrediting ourselves and our values. Being responsible and being accountable are as much a part of being a person of integrity as being truthful when faced with challenges.

We must all ask ourselves, “How much is my integrity worth?” Mine is priceless. How about yours?