To do or to be? – A very good question

  • Published
  • By Col. Daniel Smith
  • 56th Aerospace Medicine Squadron
I am a huge fan of the Air Force Core Values. For a long time, I have felt that whatever board or individual developed the values got them absolutely right.

In fact, every Airman, young or ... seasoned, who comes into my squadron gets to sit down with me in my office and receive an earful of how much I love the core values, and how I will expect them to do their best to implement the core values into their Air Force careers, and hopefully into their lives. "Integrity, service before self and excellence in all we do" are solid values worthy of serious reflection and our best efforts.

I am coming up on the end of three years as a squadron commander and 24 years of service in the Air Force. I am well acquainted with the quality and characteristics of powerful and talented women and men of all ranks and tenures who have made our Air Force the greatest Air Force in the world. I am also well aware of the issues which plague our Air Force and keep us in the headlines. The actions of some of our service members cause our leaders to spend much of their time and energy testifying in front of Congress. As I pondered some of these issues, I felt that perhaps one word of our core values might be changed, or at least qualified. Consider the thought, excellence in all we are.

Now, please don't accuse me of heresy. I am tried and true, Air Force blue, and I love The Airman's Creed and the core values, but if I had a magic wand for a day and could affect an Air Force-wide paradigm shift, that is the change I would make. As Lynn Robbins wrote, "To be and to do are inseparable. As interdependent doctrines, they reinforce and promote each other. Faith inspires one to pray, for example, and prayer in turn strengthens one's faith."

The problem is I can do excellently, but still be something far less than excellent. People who "do" without "being" are often called hypocrites. People who feign what they are not, are in essence, pretenders.

Robbins continues, "Conversely, to 'be' without 'do' is void and isn't really being -- it is self-deception, believing oneself to be good merely because one's intentions are good. Do without be -- hypocrisy --portrays a false image to others, while be without do portrays a false image to oneself."

Signing up for the Air Force was a 24/7 decision. I am still an Airman whether I'm on-duty or off-duty, whether I'm leading a critical care air transport team from Kandahar to Landstuhl or coaching a little league game on the weekend. I am an American Airman, whether I'm in uniform or whether I'm in civilian clothes. I'm an American Airman as I teach resiliency and sexual assault prevention and response principles in my squadron, or head to the mountains to play with my family. I'm an American Airman when I perform my duties at work and when I perform my duties as a father, husband, son or brother.

If I try to change who or what I am and live by different standards depending on the location I am in, then I start to experience somewhat of a fractionated, psychosocial schizophrenia. I can't do excellently at work and then go home and disrespect my wife or children, drink too much, or kick the dog too often without affecting other areas of my life.

Conversely, I can't portend a virtuous family life at home and return to work and sexually harass my fellow Airmen without grave consequences that affect my entire life. Being excellent wives, husbands, parents, daughters, sons, students, friends, workers, wingmen, leaders and Airmen, will always translate over into excellence in all we do, and will go far to keep us out of jail, out of court, out of the doghouse and in good standing with God and man.

Excellence in all we are requires a lifetime effort of improvement. Most people have "to do" lists, but very few people have "to be" lists. Why? Because to do lists can easily be checked off, one by one, measuring out the item as completed. "To be" lists are never done, but require constant effort, honing, shaping and development. To be lists require all four pillars of resiliency to be in place. To be balanced is also an admirable attribute.

I am grateful for the wonderful men and women of the Air Force who have inspired me, encouraged me and helped me along my journey. I am thankful for the opportunity I have had to serve our great nation and to care for the sick and injured service members across the globe. What a blessing it has been in my life to serve side by side with so many Airmen, who have made great effort to exemplify and teach others to live by the implied core value of excellence in all we are.
Wishing you tailwinds and a clear six.