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Integrity first

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- "The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office," -- Dwight D. Eisenhower

Many people tout the Air Force core value of integrity first. It's truly a great place to start to develop a work ethic. Integrity is an essential quality to hold close as a leader and goes deeper than just telling the truth or being honest. The little blue book, "United States Air Force Core Values", ties integrity to the moral traits of courage, honesty, responsibility, accountability, justice, openness, self-respect and humility.

Courage - doing what is right when the cost is high.
Honesty - telling the truth.
Responsibility - acknowledging your duties and acts.
Accountability - taking credit or, most importantly, blame for your actions.
Justice - administering similar rewards and discipline in similar situations.
Openness - sending feedback in all directions and not being afraid to open your doors for outside inspection.
Self-respect - acting accordingly to not bring discredit to yourself or your organization.
Humility - a sobering feeling given by the awesome task of defending the Constitution.

In recent years, some of these traits have been called into question. For example, the Air Force Audit Agency pointed out numerous problems in the 2008 fitness study. During the study, 321 Airmen completed a fitness assessment from 13 bases and those results were analyzed. Thirty-five percent of those Airmen had a significant increase in abdominal circumference and weight within 60 days of the assessment. Those Airmen gained an average of three inches in abdominal circumference and a corresponding weight gain of nine pounds. To maximize consistency in testing, along with reducing the administrative burden on squadrons, the Air Force implemented the use of Fitness Assessment Cells manned by civilian employees to conduct biannual assessments. In my opinion, this effort has reduced the consistency issues and has been effective in eliminating the manning problem. This is great for the Air Force as a whole, but we still have the individual leadership challenge of getting our force into shape.

As a subordinate, supervisor and leader, we can't afford for these lapses to happen. I've given an example of what happens at the corporate level when integrity is in question. On a personal level, integrity is the basis of relationships and a breakdown of this element can sever the bond. We must have a mutual trust that everyone will do their job properly. This means technicians will do the work correctly. They will follow guidance, complete work and document properly. Supervisors will set expectations, give feedback and rate fairly. Commanders will implement policy and reward and discipline on merit without bias.

We do have ongoing challenges in integrity at all levels. The Air Force continues to struggle with the performance report system, awards and decorations, drugs, alcohol, sexual assault and many others. These issues erode our core and create negative environments. I challenge everyone to take this as their own and remain true to the cause. As long as these issues are around we can do better.