Put integrity first

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Kathleen Jones
  • 95th Aerospace Medicine Squadron
Integrity first
Service before self
Excellence in all we do

At a recent Group Commander's Call, the Medical Group Commander spoke about several events that have occurred on base within the past few months and asked if there was a common theme. I'm sure there are many potential answers to her question, but I believe the answer rests in our first core value - integrity. Integrity has often been defined as doing the right thing even when nobody else is watching. It involves adherence to moral or ethical principles and is a character trait.

Nobody sets out to sit on the side of the road with blue lights in their rear view mirror. Nobody decides it would be a fun to perform a field sobriety test just to finish off the perfect party evening. Nobody envisions being personally questioned by law enforcement for any reason. We all know that speeding is a crime, that driving under the influence of alcohol is against the law, and that using any illegal substance that alters our mental state is...well, illegal. So why do it?

For every person who gets caught speeding, hundreds "get away with it." For every DUI arrest, others are out there continuing to endanger the lives of others each weekend. For every drug-related arrest, many are looking for that next substance that can't be detected on a urinalysis. People do these things because they think they can get away with it. They believe the gain of temporary pleasure is worth more than the risk of getting caught. They do what they know is wrong because they don't think they'll get caught. In other words, they sacrifice their integrity one incredibly stupid choice at a time. Your character is something you build daily in a series of choices made about how you will live your life. You can't tell folks you are a man or woman of integrity and then live a life of stupid, rash choices.

My grandmother was one of the greatest women I have ever known. She taught me many valuable life lessons, but I want to focus on her amazing talent as a pianist and teacher. You've heard the statement "practice makes perfect," right? Well, Grandma didn't like that statement. Her statement was "perfect practice makes perfect." Talk about pressure! Still, she had a valuable point. You can play a song incorrectly 100 times daily and all you'll have is one very messed up song. You have engraved every one of those 100 mistakes into your brain and you will have a massive struggle to correct those errors. Had you put in the effort to play that song correctly every time, you would have had perfectly beautiful music.

The same is true of your character. You make hundreds of choices every day. Every time you do something you KNOW is wrong but choose to do it anyway, whether out of convenience or because you just thought you wouldn't get caught, you engrave that pattern of behavior into your mind. Little choices by little choices, you become a person who lacks integrity; a person nobody trusts. It all starts with the little choices each day, so how will you make your decisions today?

Practice integrity perfectly today - it is first for a reason.