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Home : News : Commentaries : Display
NEWS | June 5, 2013

'Core Values Spotlight': Service before self

By Master Sgt. Brian Potvin Air Combat Command

Editor's note - this commentary is the second in a three-part series.

A quick thought about the core value of "service before self" might make an Airman think that the Air Force expects Airmen to make the Air Force more important than themselves. At its most basic level, I agree with that thought. We are supposed to put the Air Force's needs above our own. However, let's dig a little deeper and think about the term "service." What is the spirit of this core value?

To me, the spirit of "service before self" is to place service to others above your own self-interests. This is the core value that, in my opinion, reminds us that we are an important part of something bigger than ourselves. This is the case whether we are in or out of uniform, because we're members of the Air Force and important members of our families and our communities.

Lately, the aspect of serving family before my own needs has become especially important for me. I'm currently deployed overseas, and have done as much as I can to ensure my family is being taken care of during my absence. We all need to do everything we can to make the impact of our absence from our family's life while we are gone as minimal as possible.

We hear opinions regarding the importance that the Air Force places on the "whole person concept"; how those who choose to volunteer their time in various efforts on and off base are the ones who win awards, get decorations and earn promotions. I think the "whole person concept" is a way for us to define "service before self" in another way.

There are four attributes which stem from this core value. They are as follows:

The Air Force, or any organization for that matter, can only achieve true excellence when everyone is encouraged to participate to the fullest extent possible. This means we must secure and promote an environment free of fear, discrimination, sexual harassment, intimidation or unfair treatment. Discrimination based on gender, religion, age or sexual preference has absolutely no place in any military unit.

As leaders, we have a responsibility to create an environment as described above. Everyone in the Air Force is expected to conduct themselves with self-control, confidence and determination.

All Airmen must display conduct that does not bring discredit upon themselves or the Air Force. For example, when a leader displays anger in front of his Airmen, they are not showing any self-control over their emotions. This also extends to inappropriate actions, desires and intolerance.

We must all be loyal to our superiors. Airmen must never be thought of as disloyal. I believe that those of us in leadership positions must show unwavering loyalty to the Airmen under our charge as well. Our Airmen must know that when they are in the right, we will support them to the utmost of our abilities. In addition, they must know that when they are incorrect, we will correct their behavior in the appropriate manner.

I recently asked my niece, Airman 1st Class Amanda Potvin of the 55th Security Forces Squadron, what "service before self" means to her.

"Service before self means deciding to dedicate an extra hour to studying for a career development course test, or spending an extra hour in the gym, instead of hanging out with friends," she said.

She also noted that because of the superior support the base populace provides to the local community outside her base, the community returns that support by being even more dedicated to the Airmen assigned there. They recognize the Airmen from the base and truly show their appreciation not only for what they are doing to support the community, but for what they do as Airmen defending our country.

From my perspective, "service before self" does not mean letting the needs of your family slide while you serve the Air Force. Of course, wearing the uniform of an Airman means that you will be required to place the needs of the Air Force above your own personal needs. However, it also means that you'll place the needs of your family and, when possible, the needs of your community above your own.