Year of Leadership: Core values act as moral compass

  • Published
  • By Maj. Melissa Youderian
  • 341st Security Forces Squadron commander
Just as most religions have a set of guidelines for followers to learn, internalize and abide by, the Air Force has also set forth such guidelines. They are known as the core values. 

These values are not simply a business model or something to guide the Air Force institution itself; they values are a non-secular "moral compass" intended to guide each individual Airman. "Integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do," are values we expect every Airman to learn, internalize, and abide by on- and off-duty whether they wear officer rank, enlisted rank or civilian attire in support of the Air Force mission. 

For so many Airmen, following the core values comes naturally and with little effort. 

Unfortunately, there are also those few Airmen who choose not to follow the core values. Whether it's someone who failed to establish a plan to prevent a DUI or someone who stole from the Air Force or a fellow Airman, there are a few that fail to follow the Air Force's moral compass. 

This failure to follow core values does not discriminate; it falls under all ranks, religions and career fields making it very difficult to proactively identify those who struggle to follow the core values. 

Most times it takes a serious disciplinary infraction for others to really take notice of someone who hasn't internalized the core values. 

The challenge then is to find a way to identify those Airmen for whom adherence to core values doesn't come easily. 

So leaders, and by leaders I mean every Airman, NCO, Senior NCO, Officer and civilian who is part of the Air Force family, must look for the early warning signs. 

Identify those who miss appointments, are tardy for work, try to take shortcuts on the job, or are the last to volunteer for anything. 

Such warning signs probably point to someone who has not internalized the core values and, as such, let leaders know their Airman requires extra attention, extra mentoring and needs to be held accountable so they understand violating the core values is taken seriously. 

With extra attention, those showing the early warning signs of not internalizing the core values might be turned around. While I believe there are very few Airmen out there who will probably never internalize the core values, I also believe there are many who come into the Air Force hungry to be part of an honorable institution, who are hungry for discipline and hungry to earn respect. 

There will be those who might falter along the way as they strive to internalize the core values, but an eager willingness and continuous effort to adhere to the core values will in the end, produce a successful Airman who has earned respect. And for every Airman who does their best to adhere to the core values, the Air Force is that much more strengthened and respected as an institution.