Commentary by Lt. Col. Randy Huiss
14th Airlift Squadron
7/27/2010 - JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. (AFNS) -- "In looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence and energy. And if they don't have the first, the other two will kill you."
-- Warren Buffet, the chief executive officer of Berkshire Hathaway.
A number of years ago, while interviewing for a flying assignment, I was asked a simple question, "Which Air Force core value do you consider the most important?" I immediately thought to myself," Finally, an easy question.
Then answered with a simple "Integrity first."
That interview was approximately 12 years ago, but my response today would be exactly the same.
Why integrity first? While I expanded my answer during the interview, I simply pointed to a few different examples that all revolved around being able to trust the word of those around you without having to question whether or not what was said was true.
For example, a simple question to the crew chief asking, "How's the jet?" and getting a response, "Good to go, sir." Is it? I sure hope the maintainer has integrity when he tells me this as my life and those on board with me are counting on him and the rest of the maintenance team each and every time I strap the jet onto my back.
The same holds true with the pilot sitting next to me or my loadmaster in the back. How about the weight of the cargo being loaded? It is imperative that the "port dawg" does his job correctly and avoids cutting corners. Otherwise, I may be unknowingly handed a jet that is out of "balance," which could have deadly consequences. Our profession is a dangerous one, but most of all, it is one that requires teamwork and trust to be successful.
Integrity goes well beyond answering simple questions honestly though. Your personal "integrity meter" should have absolutely nothing to do with whether or not you get caught. If it is wrong, it is wrong ... period. Is the Article 15 and $1,500 fine worth the $65 cab ride that you supposedly "lost" the receipt for? I think not, but integrity issues go well beyond any monetary figure associated with them. Once you have lost the trust of those around you, you may never gain it back.
Additionally, there is always the "man in the mirror" who will be looking at you every day knowing the true story. I need to be able to count on the honesty and integrity of those around me as they require the same of me. Otherwise, we are merely fooling ourselves and destined to fail.
I have been extremely lucky throughout the course of my career to work with some absolutely incredible people. I have witnessed way more good examples of integrity than bad, as we are held to a higher moral and ethical standard than our civilian counterparts ... and we should be. We should never sacrifice our own standards or integrity because "everyone else is doing it." We should be setting the example and making those around us better.
Maria Razumich-Zec said, "Your reputation and integrity are everything. Follow through on what you say you're going to do. Your credibility can only be built over time, and it is built from the history of your words and actions."
As your integrity and reputation are built over time, they can also be destroyed in an instance of weakness. Never allow this to happen. It always takes less time to do the right thing, then to have to explain why you chose to do it wrong.
Finally, I leave you with a quote I found by Francis Bacon Sr. whose meaning is really quite simple ... with integrity you are judged on your actions, not simply your words: "It's not what we eat, but what we digest that makes us strong; not what we gain but what we save that makes us rich; not what we read but what we remember that makes us learned; and not what we profess, but what we practice that gives us integrity."