Core Values can be leadership tool in many aspects of your career

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Joseph Brand
  • 341st Civil Engineer Squadron
Preparing for deployment to a combat zone can evoke many emotions; shock, excitement, anxiousness, pride along with others too many to count. So where does one start first?

As I prepare to assume command of an expeditionary civil engineer squadron in Southern Afghanistan, I've given this much thought. Every time I think about it, I come back to the same guiding principles I've learned throughout my 16 years of service in the Air Force. It's the Air Force Core Values that help to serve as a measuring stick on whether I've taken the necessary steps to be ready.

Integrity first. What does that mean in a combat zone? My first thought is brutal honesty, to oneself and those I'm going to war with. In a place where the safeguarding of lives are placed in those around you and teamwork is paramount, there is no room for bravado or exaggerating of one's capabilities. These failures can set you and your fellow Airmen up for disaster. If you claim you can do something you better be able to live up to it. If you're expected to be able to do something and are unsure of your ability, then you better learn how to do it and quickly, because when the time comes to call in a 9-line medevac you need to deliver. It also means knowing what you know and staying away from assuming, supposing or hoping.

The fog and friction of war can be the most debilitating and dangerous part of being in war zone. Again, it comes back to brutal honesty when you share information up and down the chain, and being alert and cautious of spreading rumors as if they were fact. In the best case scenario, it downgrades combat capability; worst case, people can lose their life.

Excellence in all we do. In my mind, this started on the first day we showed up for training and continues throughout our career. The fruits of this effort and dedication are harvested on a day-to-day basis as the result of our actions. Winston Churchill once said, "To each there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared or unqualified for that which could have been their finest hour."

So excellence is less in the doing but more in the preparing. At the core, excellence in all we do, is fostered in the nights spent studying CDCs or PME, the attention to detail while on the job when your supervisor, trainer or wingman is showing you how to accomplish a certain task. It is then you training your wingman to also accomplish that task. Fundamentally, it's about taking the time to learn what you are expected to learn and to hold yourself accountable to do so.

Finally, there is Service before self. Obviously a part of this is the willingness to go to a desolate location halfway around the world where you may have to walk a quarter mile to use the bathroom at three in the morning; or work 12, 14 or 16 hour days, 7 days a week, or being separated from family and friends for long durations. In my view, those clearly are sacrifices, but these sacrifices of the military member come with a reward; because as you come through that sacrifice your sense of contribution to the mission is magnified and crystallized.

Accomplishing something when conditions are easy is essentially a daily task for Airmen, and many times not all that noteworthy in our minds; however completing that same task when conditions are hard is a whole different story and increases our sense of pride greatly. So although the sacrifice is very real, it is temporary, where on the other hand the reward can last a lifetime.

The Air Force Core Values provide many benefits for the Air Force and the Airmen in it. They can be used by the individual as guide posts to keep us on track on a daily basis. They can be used by the organization as a common expectation; so everyone knows to what level they are to perform. Finally they can be used by both the individual and the organization as a litmus test to judge whether they are as ready as they can or should be to get the mission done, whatever that mission may be.