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Practicing and embracing integrity reveals the big picture

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Rob Lowe
  • 6th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron
Every day, Airmen on this base generate and enable airpower that has impact far beyond the gates. Some see this impact directly from the air; many wait to hear about it in the news, on metric slides, or in a story from the commander or social media. Some Airmen have a good understanding of how their individual job contributes to the mission. Still, others may struggle to see their matter how well the mission, vision, and goals are communicated. 

This struggle doesn't have to happen. I believe it's possible for all Airmen to see how their job impacts the mission by deliberately practicing integrity in their daily grind. Practicing integrity goes beyond the well-known definition of "doing what is right when no one else is looking." It means embracing all other traits of integrity such as courage, honesty, responsibility, accountability, justice, openness, self-respect, and humility. Finally, deliberately practicing integrity must happen on two fronts: at work and at home. I like to think of this as how Airmen Sustain Mission Integrity and Champion Integrity in the Mission.    

Sustain Mission Integrity

Sustaining Mission Integrity is the act of delivering effective and capable weapon systems consistently. In this sense, a "weapon system" can be an aircraft or a firearm.  Depending on the Airman and the job, it can also be a forklift, computer, toolkit, medical instrument, controller console, etc.    

Sustaining Mission Integrity is an action. It is steady and repeatable.  Mission integrity is achieved when the mission is successfully executed by the book and within acceptable levels of risk. A team sustains mission integrity when its members consistently trust one another and are adequately trained, equipped, and given the time required to perform the job. 

Every Airman owns a critical role here. Each individual job is part of a larger body that enables the wing to sustain mission integrity. Like fingers to a hand, and a hand to an arm, and an arm to the body, so is each Airmen to mission integrity. Nothing works as advertised when a member is missing or not performing.

From the start to end of every duty day, Airmen must strive to understand how their job sustains mission integrity. If it's hard to understand, chances are others don't either. Ask a supervisor or commander to explain how a specific job contributes to mission integrity...if they can't explain it, then that job area is probably a good place to create efficiencies or reassess how time is being spent. No matter how small it seems, the job of every Airman needs to contribute toward mission integrity and every Airman should understand how. 

Champion Integrity in the Mission

Can the mission succeed by cutting corners? Yes, but only until disaster strikes. Can training events, assessments, evaluations, or metrics be finagled to show standards are being met? Yes, but this disregards competence, quality, and mission integrity.

Could extra time be saved by overlooking safety notes, warnings and cautions? Yes, but at great cost to the mission, a career, or possibly a life. In our normal mission here, there is no reason to take a risk that jeopardizes a life, limb, or the tax dollars of which we're entrusted to be good stewards.

Sure, these loaded questions appear gimmicky - and all Airmen know better - but still, take a moment to look closely at daily work habits and ensure we aren't occasionally doing these things...despite best intentions. If these things are noticed, then it can point to integrity shortfalls that originate outside of work. This is why the Air Force invests so much in resiliency training, Airmen and Family Readiness, suicide awareness, domestic violence prevention, and programs to help with work-life balance. Collectively, these things help us Champion Integrity in the Mission. Championing Integrity in the Mission is those interventions Airmen must do daily to keep their moral compass caged to True North.  Allow the compass to get a few degrees off of True North and the course - over time - will result in a destination far away from the original "flight plan." This happens to Airmen who allow small violations of integrity to exist in their personal life. These integrity violations eventually chip away good judgment and make it harder to embrace other traits of integrity. Unfortunately, this often ends with something terrible happening that jeopardizes careers, healthy relationships, or physical well-being.

The bottom line is that Airmen belong to an Air Force that recognizes the danger of failing to champion integrity in the mission. Air Force leaders understand that when this fails, it becomes impossible to sustain mission integrity. We are equipped with some of the finest resources in the DoD to help us be the best spouse, parent, friend and Airman that we can be. Don't hesitate to use those're simply trying to re-cage your compass to True North. 

Tip: Develop a 30-second elevator speech on how your role sustains mission integrity. Be ready and willing to give that speech to anybody. Finally, be courageous enough to make a personal or Wingman intervention today if you notice any failure to champion integrity in the mission.