Core Values Made Simple

  • Published
  • By Maj. Robert B. Marshall
  • 7th Maintenance Operations Squadron
Simplicity. Whether born of convenience, efficiency or laziness, there is no denying that increased simplicity breeds greater utility. This is the philosophy I applied to utilizing the Air Force core values as guiding principles in everyday life. The core values themselves are not really complex, but attempting to consciously translate the concepts of "acting with integrity" and "pursuing excellence" into practical application requires a bit of effort. In my quest for the straightforward "how," I broke these ideals down into two simple rules: always do the right thing, and always do your best.

"Always doing the right thing" does not mean that you will always do everything right. Not by a long shot! It means that you should always make the best decisions you can using your moral compass to guide you to the right action based on the information available to you at the time. This perspective embraces the reality that not all decisions are "black and white", and for those tough times when you must make the hard choices, you will walk away from the decision knowing you made your best choice. To me, that is the basis of acting with integrity.

The concept of "always do your best" is relatively simple, but it requires a realistic application of time management. If you happen to have the time to achieve perfection in all you do, by all means, go for it! Realistically though, in most situations we face time constraints that force us to prioritize our efforts. As such, we do our very best with the time we have. Your best effort under given constraints is all that anyone can ever ask of you, and all that you can expect to give of yourself. This honest effort lays the foundation for excellence in all we do.

I would be remiss if I did not briefly address the core value of service before self. It is not omitted from my streamlined two-phrase philosophy; it simply falls under the rule of doing the right thing. It rolls up under the notion that we all took an oath to serve our country and must do the right thing to balance that commitment with our obligations to family and other priorities in our lives.

I offer this commentary only to provide one Airman's perspective on how our core values may be applied in actionable terms, not as a replacement for those concepts. While I consistently struggle to find the proper yardstick to measure integrity and excellence within myself, I know without a doubt when I have done what I believe is right and when I have done my best.
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