Busy Airmen must still embrace core values

  • Published
  • By Col. Emi Izawa
  • 88th Mission Support Group Commander
Air Force core values ... it is a concept often used and I find taken for granted. Today's Air Force is half its size from a decade ago, with more advanced and complex technologies, demands, and there is a constant need for speedy answers. Over the years, I fear busy Airmen don't often reflect how they can operationalize Air Force core values in their lives. I am one of those busy Airmen; I often find myself making conscious and deliberate decisions to be true to our core values.

What they mean to me:
   Integrity First
The Airman is a person of integrity, courage and conviction. The common definition I hear when describing integrity is that it is a willingness to do what is right even when nobody is looking.

How I operationalize this core value:

Honesty -- I find that most people inherently know what the right thing is for the most obvious things but more times than not, I find that most people do not have the courage to be honest with themselves. There are key indicators to find out if you are guilty: a) when a question about your assessment of something is answered with the response, "I don't know"... I bet 100 percent of   the time, you actually do know but you are afraid to admit the answer; b) when a response to a hard question is, "they said so", ask yourself, "who is they?" Most of the time, there is no "they."

Courage -- This goes hand in hand with honesty. You have to have the guts to be honest with yourself. I don't wait to admit I made a mistake; the problem just gets worse. Exercise being courageous ... just do it. The more you do it, you get better at it. I promise.

Responsibility -- Like the boss (the 88th Air Base Wing commander) said, "Don't walk past a problem." Everyone has a responsibility in our Air   Force problems, issues and challenges. It is everyone's responsibility to leave the Air Force a better place than you found it. We are all taxpayers, and we must be good stewards of taxpayers' dollars. If everyone takes responsibility for problems, then the workload become easier for all. Plus, you get out of life what you put into it. I find, and I am sure you will find, that taking responsibility is very rewarding.

   Accountability -- With responsibility comes accountability. As an appointed leader in the Air Force, I am required to hold people accountable. You must be honest with yourself, take a personal inventory and set the standard. If it is worth   doing, it is worth doing it to the best of your ability. Once the standard is set, be responsible and have the courage to hold others accountable. It takes practice but you will find everyone will be thankful, morale will be high, and those who cannot be more than mediocre will move on. It's worked for me. Everyone wants to work in a high-performance workplace.

  Humility, generosity, openness and self-respect -- Responsible people with integrity are giving of themselves to their organizations. Likewise, they are open and encourage free-flow of information. Finally, people with integrity have respect for themselves and have humility. They are sobered by the daunting   responsibility of defending the Constitution and would not conduct themselves to bring discredit upon themselves or the Air Force. In fact, we all take an oath to do so. Having moved to the United States from Japan (still today, a feudal society), I remind myself all the time that it is a privilege to serve.

   Service before self

If you subscribe to the first core value, you find yourself putting professional duties before your own personal desires.

How I operationalize this core value:

Rule following -- It is my duty to serve; if not, then I shouldn't be here.   Duties most commonly result in rules or a set of rules. As a professional, it is my duty to know the rules. I often hear examples of those who cannot be bothered to research rules. The most common response I hear described is, "if that is what you want." Of course, anyone who subscribes to this core value understands that it's not about what is desired, it is about what is required. If you don't understand, go back to the responsibility and accountability paragraphs.
Respect for others -- The boss says it best, "Dignity, honor, and respect always." A leader must think of taking care of subordinates ahead of his or her personal conduct. Honor them by setting expectations and respect them by holding them accountable, and always treat them with dignity. Discipline and self-control -- In short, don't be petty, childish, nor self-centered. The boss says, "One person can change an organization's climate." Leaders are obligated to set the tone by confidence, optimism and by controlling anger and frustration. People have told me over the years that they have never seen me angry. I believe it is because I am honest with myself and can usually prevent issues from bothering me so much to the point I get angry. Most of the time, it's also a waste of energy. 
Excellence in all we do

What does that really mean? What does it mean to be excellent in all you do? As people, I think it is in our innate nature to want to continuously improve - whether in our personal relationships, family relationships or other self-improvement efforts. Airmen must develop a passion for it. Again, you will get more satisfaction out of life, the more you put into it.

How I operationalize this core value:

Personal excellence -- I push myself to do my personal best in pursuit of education, mental shape and spirituality, and physical fitness.

Product excellence -- Every product my team produces is a reflection of our effort. I try my best to seek feedback and keep raising the bar. It's great to see how proud people can be when they accomplish things they didn't think possible. 

Community excellence-

My goal from day one was to partner with wing and tenant units so we can be known as the partner to go to. This is accomplished by following the first two Core values above ...

I hope what I've shared can help others "operationalize" Air Force core values in their lives. I find that in a busy world, tangible tips to continuously improve ourselves are always in high demand.