Commander's Commentary - Integrity First
By Col. Jeff Smith, 173rd Fighter Wing
/ Published October 05, 2016
KINGSLEY FIELD, Ore. -- Thank you for an amazing Fiscal Year 2016! With 5,110 hours flown, 4,181 sorties flown, over 60 student pilots graduated, a successful trip to Finland and aircraft delivery to Israel, RCP5 deployment prep...it was a busy year. The busiest on Kingsley record with respect to the flying business. Thanks for executing the mission safely and with the excellence that everyone has grown to expect from Kingsley Field
We have received a lot of suggestions through the Commander's Suggestion Boxes located in building 211 over the last month. We take these seriously and thoroughly consider/review for action as required. Last week, I received a great suggestion. An Airman asked if I would talk about "Truth & Honesty" rather than Humble, Approachable, Credible, Accountable. I will wrap Truth & Honesty together under the cornerstone of our Core Values: Integrity First.
We are part of the Profession of Arms. We have raised our hands and sworn an oath to the Constitution of the United States (and Oregon) and to the President (and Governor). We have pledged to lay down our lives for our nation, if needed. We have answered the call to serve. Because we are charged with, burdened with, and empowered with, the use of OFFENSIVE LETHAL FORCE in the military, we are held to a higher standard than the rest of the populous. Think about that--no one else is authorized OFFENSIVE lethal force. That's not something to be taken lightly. This nation and our allies expect and demand our honesty, integrity, and purity of intent. In peacetime, our training is dangerous. The recent U2 crash at Beale AFB, the F18 crashes of late... these are constant reminders that our business is serious. Because it is so serious, integrity is crucial to sustained success.
Did you clear your firearm before turning it in? YES.
Did you verify that there was not any water in the Jet-A F15 fuel before filling the R-11? YES.
Did you properly purge, fill, and reconnect the LOX bottle? YES.
Were you ready to fly or did you have significant distractions? I was ready.
Did you verify that the hangar was secured and alarmed? YES.
Did you process that member's PCS voucher? YES.
Did you drive the movement area to look for FOD or other hazards before opening the airfield this morning? YES.
Did you verify the runway was clear before saying "cleared to land?" YES.
Did you inspect that parachute prior to installation in the seat? YES.
We don't ask these questions often, other than in the 2-person concept we commonly utilize to back each other up. If these questions are being asked, something may have just gone horribly wrong. We don't want to face integrity challenges "after the fact." We need to execute our jobs diligently, consciously. And if we make a mistake, or if we don't know how, or if we get home and say, "Wow, I can't remember doing __________" (fill in the blank with something from your AFSC)--we need to fess up. Notify someone. Speak up. It's not easy to do, but it matters.
In the note he gave me, the Airman also mentioned how critical integrity is, even when the truth is ugly. Absolutely spot on. We want to succeed. We're driven people. We want to meet the mission. But we can't always say YES. Can you go do this--we only have 5 minutes? NO--to do it by the book will take me 20 minutes. That's honest. It may elicit a response from the person asking the question. But it's the right thing to say and do.
At the Air Force Academy, it was drilled into us that we must do the right thing, even when no one else is looking. That's integrity. How powerful a concept is that? Not just for the USAF. For our communities, our family. Do what's right, even when no one is there to see it. My parents taught me that early too--not to drop litter even though no one could attribute it to me. Simple example, but it's true.
Sadly, I've had to ask some questions similar to those listed above, over the course of my career. With almost no exception, people who answered honestly were given additional chances. This isn't a one mistake Air Force. It is, however, a one crime Air Force in most cases. If a "YES" answer was ever not true, then trust is lost. The moment trust is lost, why bother re-training someone? Why bother with the investment? If you've ever watched the Shark Tank, you know that "Mr. Wonderful" has an expression--"you're dead to me." While I never actually wish death on folks in the Air Force, this phrase has crossed my lips when referencing folks I've caught in a lie. Don't lie. I don't know--that works. Let me find out--that works. Sorry, I dropped the ball on that--it works...we can work on fixing that. YES when the answer should be NO or I don't know? Doesn't work in this business.
I hope this fit the bill for our young Airman and I hope it reinforces a basic foundation we rely upon across our armed services, and especially in this Air Force and this Fighter Wing.