Commentary by Lt. Col. Steven Staats
22nd Space Operations Squadron commander
The Air Force Space Command Year of Leadership is an opportunity to reflect on and emphasize those traits that provide the foundation for the Air Force and the profession of arms. These are the traits that set us apart, and items we emphasize to make not only our mission, but our people better.
As I look at the list of items earning monthly emphasis, April’s focus on character stands out. While most other traits emphasize things we want to do, character is something we want to possess. Beyond that, our society and we as Airmen demand strength of character in members of the armed forces. It’s not something we can switch on or off, rather something we need to strive for every day.
Our profession demands strength of character. War is a singularly unstructured, violent, chaotic environment, demanding split-second judgment on life or death issues.
America and modern civilization has placed expectations on the conduct of its warriors, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen. Our society demands us to fight a just war and to conduct ourselves during that or any conflict in a manner that upholds the values of this nation.
It’s within the violence and turmoil of war that the mettle of our warriors is brought to the forefront, and we expect their conduct to demonstrate bravery and even compassion within the atmosphere of violence.
The inherent contradiction and leadership required in war demand strength of character to resolve. Only by possessing, drawing on and being faithful to a solid set of core values, can we expect to make just decisions.
Yet, many of us may serve honorably, contribute significantly to the mission, and even complete a career without seeing direct combat. This statement certainly doesn’t include all Airmen. But for those people not in combat positions or deployed, why is strength of character important? It’s vital because we expect all Airmen to uphold the highest standards, to demonstrate unwavering strength of character in all situations as stewards of public trust.
Within AFSPC and the 50th Space Wing, we operate multi-billion dollar satellite and network systems which provide a lifeline for deployed forces and our nation. The communication and navigation capabilities we provide are vital to the success of critical missions and the safety of personnel deployed throughout the world. We’re also responsible for expending considerable funds provided to us by taxpayers. These responsibilities demand our vigilance and strength of character to do what’s right.
It’s no mistake that one of the Air Force core values is integrity. Strength of character takes that core value one step further, to a level of commitment to a value system.
Integrity, honesty and strength of character are vital to our ability to carry out our missions, allowing us to trust each other and trust that everyone standing behind someone in combat is operating their systems and accomplishing their mission as required to support that person or team in combat. Without this trust or strength of character it is founded on, that support chain breaks down and that warrior is very, very alone, something our nation, our Air Force and we will not let happen.
I implore you to spend some time this month looking at yourself and at your fellow Airmen, emphasizing our core values and the strength of character it takes to uphold them. Character and integrity are like pillars. When our character is solid, it’s strong enough to support great weight. When weakened, even a little day by day, our core foundation is weakened, reducing the capability of the unit and entire force.