Core values always matter

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Scott Grover
  • 4th Equipment Maintenance Squadron commander
Oh no. Not another article on core values! Yes - they still matter. In this time and place, they matter more now than ever. As a squadron commander, part of my job requires me to make decisions that affect our Airmen and their families, their careers and our mission. I try to be firm, fair and consistent. And although I grew up with a certain set of values my parents fostered in me, when it comes to Airmen I always come back to the Air Force core values as a jumping off point.

I touch on core values each and every time I address new squadron members during my monthly newcomer's briefing. The core values are meant to be more than a motto. They're more than a bumper sticker. They set the tone for expectations. They're common traits we value as an institution and organization. In this great country of ours, each individual has the right to place value on whatever it is their background or beliefs pour into them. But when we volunteered for the Air Force we gave up some of those rights and took on added obligations. The Air Force core values became ours. They are universal to all Air Force members, but what does that really mean? Actually, their universal nature means their specific application spans a variety of situations. Sometimes it's worth closing the door, and spending some moments reflecting on how they apply to you or in a specific situation.

From an aircraft maintainer's perspective, integrity means doing the right thing when you're alone and unafraid in the dark on swing shift. It is doing the right thing when it's cold and raining, and you're tired and getting frustrated with a tough maintenance task. It means minding each detail during repetitive and easy tasks. It means not cutting corners when performing maintenance, even if you think it'll speed up the process with little risk. It means following the technical orders to the letter, even when you know a quicker or better way to do it. It means taking the time to submit a formal change request to the technical order because you know a better way to do it.

Service before self is easy for some and tough for others. I've heard it expressed many ways. "The mission comes first" is the one that is sometimes mindlessly beat into us. Sometimes our mission is crystal clear. Ask those who are launching an alert aircraft in Afghanistan in response to troops in contact. Life boils down to a couple of critical tasks and nothing else exists in the world in that moment. Other times are not as clear.

When I think of service before self, I think of another phrase that recalibrates the message for me. "It's not about you." In this context, it means taking care of your family so you are better able to perform the mission. It means taking care of your physical fitness. It means taking care of your financial obligations. It means finding ways to develop yourself for future service in the Air Force.

Excellence in all we do equates to a culture of winning. I had a boss who loved to say, "second place is the first place loser." While second place is nothing to scoff at, the idea of striving for first in each and every endeavor is what we value as Airmen. It's as American as it gets. If you're going to do something, it's worth doing your best. Personal and team pride is worth the effort, and our combat capability depends on it. We have great equipment, great training, and great people, but ultimately our attitude about winning is what makes us the greatest Air Force the world has ever known.