Family lies between lines of core values

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Steve Mezhir
  • 56th Security Forces Squadron commander
Upon taking command of the 56th Security Forces Squadron more than two years ago, I shocked myself by stating publicly that when it comes to core values, particularly the one about service before self, that the Air Force had it wrong. At my first commander's call, I told the squadron that it should be "family before service before self."

Needless to say, this raised a few eyebrows, and when I began to think about what I had said, and basically made myself the Air Force director of values and morals, I realized that maybe I stated it wrong, but the concept was fundamentally correct. I stand by that statement to this day.

Since the AF core values don't mention family per se, allow me a minute to try to convince you that family really is there -- it's just between the lines.

Let's start with "integrity first." Secretary Wynne described integrity first as being able to "walk the talk," "morale courage" and "loyalty." When we receive our Air Force core values training in basic training, or our commissioning source, it is framed in the context of walking the talk at work -- following training orders and checklists and abiding by AF instructions.

Read between the lines though, and you'll see family. For those of us who are married, being loyal to your spouse can make or break you at work -- everyone's heard the phrase "if mama ain't happy, nobody's happy." That's a fact.

If you don't keep the promises you make to your family, display morale courage to make the tough decisions, and remain loyal to those closest to you, those you love, you probably aren't going to be able to display those values at work either.

Not only that, a happy, loving family, one built on trust and integrity is key to being a happy and healthy Airman!

Let's move onto "service before self." This is the core value I butchered a couple years ago. Secretary Wynne describes service before self as "sacrifice and commitment to our nation."

Certainly all of us, in general, put the needs of the Air Force before our own personal wants and needs -- if we didn't, we'd get kicked out for incompatibility.

We all sacrifice some of our own personal freedom when we take the oath of office. The job sometimes requires long, unpredictable or extended hours, or long stints away from home -- this is the sacrifice we make to our nation, and the fact that we keep doing it shows our commitment. Still, there's no mention of family, right?

Again, read between the lines. There's nothing that says you can't have a family, or having a family is incompatible with military service. Your commitment to the Air Force and our nation is usually of limited duration. The commitment to your family is forever, particularly if you have kids.

You must strive to integrate your family into the Air Force, just as you have integrated. You must keep your family informed of the goings-on at Luke and around the Air Force.

You must also remember your family may need you more than the Air Force at times, and you must make the small sacrifice to let your supervisor know that they need you.

That's when you put family before service before self. In most cases, the Air Force will understand -- and you'll be a better Airman for it!

Finally, there's "excellence in all we do." No mention of family again. Don't worry, it's implied. In fact, Secretary Wynne mentions making our parents proud.

It's not "excellence while we're in uniform" or "excellence while I'm on duty" -- it specifically says "all we do." If you have a family, I'm certain you "do" things with them. Excellence applies to that too.

The high expectations your supervisors and leadership have for you while turning jets applies when you're changing diapers, cleaning the house, getting the kids in for immunizations, and just being a good father/mother/ sister/brother/son/daughter.

Too many folks tend to take their families and loved ones for granted, particularly if they perceive them to be a roadblock to success in their Air Force careers.

These folks are mistaken. You don't travel the path alone--someone who loves and cares about you is supporting you. Treat them with respect. Know they deserve the effort you give to your job.

Do your best, be excellent, 24/7; on duty, TDY, downtown, and most importantly, at home with your family. After all, you won't be in the Air Force all your life -- your family, on the other hand, is forever.