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The overlooked core value, a call to excellence

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Anthony Thompson Jr.
  • 27th Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron First Sergeant
From the moment we enter the United States Air Force, our unique set of core values are instilled upon us by numerous leaders.

Regardless of how we enter - the Air Force Academy, basic military training, the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, or Officer Training School – Integrity first, Service before self and Excellence in all we do are some of the first principles we learn as Air Force members.

While these core values are discussed frequently, I have noticed during my time in the military that as we progress individually in our careers, Excellence in all we do does not receive the attention it deserves.

I believe it is this core value that separates “good” Airmen from “great” Airmen, and distinguishes the “above average” Air Commandos from those who truly are among the best.

According to Air Force Instruction 1-1, Air Force Culture, “Excellence in all we do directs us to develop a sustained passion for the continuous improvement and innovation that will propel the Air Force into a long-term upward vector of accomplishment and performance.”

Additionally, Merriam-Webster defines excellence as “extremely high quality, very good, or extremely good.” So, how do we as Airmen practically apply these explanations of excellence to ourselves?

I believe it is as simple as this: We give our very best, both on and off duty, to the responsibilities we have been entrusted with. For example, excellence decrees punctuality for duty and scheduled appointments. If duty hours are from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., excellence dictates you should show up for work between 6:45 a.m. and 6:50 a.m., and not leave until after 4 p.m.

An “excellent” Air Commando does not show up to work at 7:05 a.m. and leave at 3:50 p.m.; they show up early and give 100 percent until the job or mission is complete.

Another applicable example of excellence is displayed in one’s personal dress and appearance. The pride and care we show for our uniform, reflects the excellence or lack thereof we have in our lives.

It is amazing to think back to when we first received our uniforms what great care we took of them and what pride we wore them with, but over the time that care and pride fades away. Excellence should compel us to treat our uniforms with the respect and dignity we did when we first earned them.

These examples are just a few tangible ways of how excellence can be displayed by military members. It can also be shown in the performance of work, completion of career development courses and individual physical fitness levels.

Do we give our best to our assigned duties? Do we aim to truly learn and absorb our CDCs or just complete them? Do we attempt to excel in our physical fitness or simply do the minimum to get a 75 percent pass rate?

These are all questions that we should ponder to help us determine whether or not we are living our last core value to its fullest potential. Integrity first is paramount, Service before self is vital, but let us do our best to not forget Excellence in all we do!