Airmen strive for excellence, set high standards

  • Published
  • By Col. Eric Axelbank
  • 37th Training Wing commander
A pivotal moment in the history of the Air Force occurred when Gen. Ronald R. Fogelman, the Air Force's 15th chief of staff, published the Air Force core values, also known as the "Little Blue Book," Jan. 1, 1997.

Our newly minted core values gave us a foundation via an enduring belief system that binds us together as Airmen. How do these core values apply 15 years later in today's environment? More specifically, how do we resolve the seemingly apparent dichotomy of achieving "excellence in all we do" in an era of constrained resources?

"Excellence in all we do" is often overlooked and misunderstood. Some may ask, "How can I achieve excellence in everything I do, especially today?" The prospect of achieving excellence in all areas may seem like an elusive objective at best. Rather, think of "excellence" as a vector or where you are aiming. Think of excellence as setting high standards, always seeking to do your job better.

World War I ace and Medal of Honor recipient Eddie Rickenbacker, referenced the history of flight itself. "Aviation is proof that given the will, we have the capacity to achieve the impossible," he said. The courage and confidence that comprises the fabric of Airmen starts in Air Force Basic Military Training.

Something amazing happens during the fourth week of BMT. Trainees are issued their name tags for their uniforms.

Up until that point, trainees wear uniforms with no name tags, insignias nor service identification. When they get their name tags sewn on and hang up their uniforms on their wall lockers, a transformational event occurs during their eight-and-a-half-week quest to become Airmen.

Trainees feel a sense of belonging and overwhelming pride as they gaze at their new uniforms that now bear both their name and U.S. Air Force together.

The words "U.S. Air Force" they now wear over their left chest pocket reveal to them that they are a part of one of the greatest and most respected institutions in our nation. These words are our incontrovertible bond with each other and it gives us unquestionable trust in our fellow wingmen. This new surge of self-confidence and identity provides the foundation for success as a dynamic team.

As underwriters of our nation's freedoms, America expects its Air Force to be the best. America expects excellence
and the U.S. Air Force delivers on that promise without fail.

Rickenbacker also spoke about America's values when he said, "The four cornerstones of character on which the structure of this nation was built are: Initiative, Imagination, Individuality and Independence."

No other group of professionals epitomizes these values more than America's NCO corps. Our professional and innovative NCOs are what separate us from everyone else.

Air Force core values and the concept of excellence that define Airmen today were gently introduced by their military training instructors as they stepped off the bus for the first time at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.

Continually seeking excellence characterizes the legacy of those courageous Airmen who came before us and our rich heritage and culture motivate us to carry on that tradition. Rickenbacker would be proud if he witnessed the caliber of Airmen serving today. This is an exciting time to be a warrior. The challenging times confronting us are exactly what
Airmen have been trained and educated to thrive in.

Referring to our resource constraints, "We must remain undaunted by such issues and embrace the opportunities that present themselves, building our way to the Air Force of tomorrow," Gen. Edward A. Rice Jr., Air Education and Training Command commander, said. America's Airmen are second to none and we are achieving excellence as we prepare Airmen today for the vast and uncertain challenges of the future.