Core values, part of Air Force culture

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. John Chapman
  • 54th Air Refueling Squadron commander
In our Air Force, we tie our behavior and expectations of others to our Core Values.  Everyone is indoctrinated into this culture from Basic Military Training through continuing professional education. In my time in the Air Force, I've found that these core values represent the minimum standards of behavior and are complemented by a fourth element - respect.  

The concept of respect not only touches each of the Core Values in terms of our own behavior, it goes beyond in how we interact with our fellow Airmen. 
In the Air Force, respect can be viewed in three different ways:  respect for rank, respect for the institution and respect for the individual. 

For most in the military, the clearest exhibition of respect is for rank.  We respect our superiors by referring to them by rank and saluting higher ranking officers. Respecting rank is often the easiest type of respect to demonstrate, as it is disconnected from the individual as a person.  Additionally, the repercussions of not respecting rank help keep us in line! 

Respect for the institution is tougher to explain and tougher to give.  Our Air Force team is made of a wide variety of specialties.  As each of our career fields becomes more technically involved, it is more difficult for those outside that particular career field to understand.  Yet each of our specialties serves to execute air and space power in some aspect.  

Respect for the institution is the personal step of faith that the Air Force has well instilled into us as we interact with our counterparts in other career fields.  From my point of view, when I deal with other Airmen (of any rank) I expect them to know their jobs.  For instance, the 54 ARS' primary mission is training KC-135 students.  

I expect our instructors to recognize that each student's presence here is based on successful Tech School completion or the recommendation of his or her commander.  In other words, we must take it on faith that they are, in fact, adequately ready/prepared to meet the demands we place upon them. We owe the institution that level of respect. 

Respect for the individual is perhaps the most important aspect of our ability to fly and fight as a cohesive team.  It goes beyond the core values, right to the very heart of those rights guaranteed to all U.S. citizens. Respect for an individual sets aside rank and Air Force specialty.  It is color blind and gender neutral, ignores politics, and makes no comment on religion.  Respect for an individual requires no agreement on any of these categories just the acknowledgement that others are entitled to the same respect we expect for ourselves. 

Respect at all three levels, respect for rank, respect for the institution, and respect for the individual compliment and even supplement our Air Force Core Values.  As we increasingly become a force of "human weapons systems" our dependence upon our fellow Airmen increases as well.  

Respect is the unmentioned fourth core value that can keep our Air Force running at full throttle as we deal with the turmoil in this Global War on Terror.