Service before self: what does it mean?

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Christopher Marinos
  • 4th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron
On a daily basis, Airmen hear or see something related to the Air Force core values: integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do.

Although we believe every Airman should have an understanding of what each core value means, how that understanding is applied does not always match the intent of what these standards truly signify.

We are part of an all-volunteer force; we all signed a contract and took an oath to ensure the security of our nation and its people, but what does service before self mean to you?

As military members, many things, which impact us as individuals also affect an entire group. Despite this fact, we often find ourselves thinking with more of a focus on "I" instead of "we" during times of adversity.

The Department of Defense has been impacted with large budget constraints due to sequestration and was tasked with prioritizing needs versus wants.

We have been asked to make tough decisions in regards to finishing the fiscal year with a lower budget than projected. We have been tasked to look ahead at how we can reduce spending to save for the future.

With these reductions, we need to maintain a "we" focus instead of an "I" mentality. Readiness versus personal gain.

It is easy and normal to become accustomed to pay raises, discounts, but we may seldom stop to realize there are benefits not guaranteed. We confused needs with wants and learned sometimes needs outweigh wants. As a fighting force the most essential thing we NEED is readiness.

Readiness means different things to different people, but it should involve being prepared to meet any tasking which will ensure the security of our nation. We not only made that promise to America when we recited our oath of enlistment, we made a commitment to service before self.
Now that budgetary limits are upon us, we need to ask ourselves if we're truly living up to our oath and commitment to Air Force core values. Are we prioritizing privileges over the needs of our force to meet mission readiness requirements?

We may enjoy a nice pay raise or 100 percent tuition assistance but does that take priority over arming, equipping and training our Airmen?

Take a step back and consider our commitment to our core values. We made a promise to America and that is a promise we need to live up to.