AF core values - a way of life, not just military education

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Genesia Angulo
  • 325th Weapons Squadron, NCO in charge and additional duty first sergeant
I have always known that the Air Force core values were important; it's been drilled into our brains since basic training. I just thought of it as military education, not as a way of life. Every Airman should have them memorized: Integrity, Service Before Self, and Excellence In All We Do. I did not realize the depth of these words until my first experience as an additional duty first sergeant.

Having recently changed jobs and only just been "hailed" at my new position, I had a lot of new responsibility, I was now the squadron NCO in-charge of all the enlisted Airmen for a small unit. With this position, I received the unique opportunity to be an additional duty first sergeant, all of the responsibility of a first sergeant but without wearing the coveted diamond.

My boss knew that I was "green," and tried to help me out as much as possible. One of the first conversations we had was about his style of doing business and how he takes care of his people.

 He told me "no matter how painful, always tell me the bad news first, and just give me the honest facts." It wasn't long before my new skills were tested.

My first weekend on the job, I received the dreaded 4 a.m. wake up call. I had to respond as a first sergeant to a domestic issue. Having been in the unit only a few short weeks, I had not had the chance to develop a strong rapport with my unit, let alone my new subordinates.  Yet here I was, standing in my new subordinate's living room being briefed by a security forces patrol member on what had occurred prior to my arrival. Now that I had the facts, I had to figure out how to show this Airman that despite my limited experience, I was there to help.

Integrity first - I had to figure out how to approach this issue with my new realm of responsibility and create trust between the commander and my subordinate, that showed him I knew what I was doing, and trying to make the best decision. This Airman was looking to me to fill in the blanks and my commander was looking at me to give him advice on how to handle the situation. I explained to them that even though this was new territory for me, I was willing to do what I could to help correct the issue. With a little help, I was able to provide answers and a bridge of trust was started.

Service Before Self - The first thing out of the Airman's mouth that morning was "I'm so sorry that you had to come out here at this hour." At that moment I realized that I didn't care that it was 4 a.m., what I cared about was that individual. Regardless of the hour, it was my job to make sure my personnel were taken care of. I had to put my job, my service, before myself.

Excellence In All We Do - The second thing to come out of my Airman's mouth is "How is this going to affect me and my career?" It was not a simple question with an easy answer, but with a little time, I was able to help the Airman understand. As soon as I made it back to my desk that day, I made a few calls to full-time first sergeants and other support agencies educating myself on my options. With a lot of help, we were able to help this Airman stay on the right track.

By living by the Air Force core values, I have learned that integrity can be as simple as being honest and building trust.  Service before self often comes with a lot of sacrifice.  Excellence in all we do can be easily reflected in how well we take care of our people. In this one situation, I realized that by living these core values I was able to help this Airman save his career.