The moral compass

Col. Jackson R. Dobbins
435th Medical Operations Squadron commander

Now that we’ve set the stage, let’s look at how this affects our lives. How many times have each of us blown off finishing a project, and instead, taken shortcuts to get it past the tasker? Any problem with that? I mean, heck, the boss didn’t even notice. What if this project entails the well-being of an aircraft crew and, what if that airplane crashed? Your lack of integrity in this situation, directly or indirectly, causing the loss of these lives would no-doubt come back to haunt you − for the rest of your life.

This topic concerns a discussion of the first core value of the Air Force:  Integrity. In Air Fore Doctrine Document 1-1, Leadership and Force Development, integrity is defined as, “…the willingness to do what is right even when no one is looking. It is the ‘moral compass,’ the inner voice, the voice of self-control, the basis for the trust imperative in today’s Air Force.”  

Furthermore, Gen. Charles A. Gabriel, our chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force from 1982 to 1986 stated, “Integrity is the fundamental premise for military service in a free society. Without integrity, the moral pillars of our military strength, public trust, and self-respect are lost.”

Let’s tweak this issue to a more personal note. Envision that a nurse gave you the wrong medication, and since no one noticed, she signed the record saying that the proper medication was given.

Worse yet, imagine that the medication was given to your child, who will eventually suffer grave illness from this wrong medication. See where I’m going with this?

Mistakes are made, of course − it’s the nature of our being. Integrity, however, is the ability to realize this error, and admit to it − sometimes to the loss of respect of who we considered our friends. Can it be a tough choice? You bet it can. But you know what? You can sleep well knowing that you did the “right thing.”

Of course we’re always capable of being swayed away from the path of integrity. I suppose you could call this a false reading of the “moral compass.” You know what I mean, or you wouldn’t have read this far.

Yep, cheating:  Cheating on a test, on your job, on all of those people in CONUS who trust you to make that right decision, or even on your “significant other.”

Let’s face it. As military professionals, our integrity is held above our civilian contemporaries. Once each of us raised our right hand, we realized that we would be held to a higher standard.

So what do we do? Every now and then, check your “moral compass.” If in doubt of which way the needle is swinging, talk to your wingman, your supervisor or your chaplain — one of them should be able to “orient” you to the right direction, and get you back on track.