Commentary by Jeff Hunt
50th Space Wing Director of Staff
Service before self. Is it an overused phrase that has lost its impact? I hope not. Simply, it should tell us that one’s duty takes precedence over personal desires.
Recently, I have become concerned that this core value is not being practiced. As a member of this great Air Force team, we need to occasionally remind ourselves of some of our basic tenants.
Sometimes it is helpful to look at past leaders and how they have applied these tenants to help us refocus and serve our country as we should.
Former President John Adams, one of our founding fathers, provides a great example of putting service before his personal desires. Even though he didn’t serve in uniform, Mr. Adams spent many years serving his country, service that kept him from his family and home for years. Mr. Adams worked to develop our country and establish the foundation for this great nation. This work took him to Philadelphia as well as overseas in France and England, and this was all before he became our first vice president and our second president. As much as he wanted to be home practicing law, Mr. Adams deemed the service to his country in this capacity was a greater need.
I realized another great example while reading A Fiery Peace in a Cold War, in which the author, Neil Sheehan, reminded me that General “Hap” Arnold suffered two heart attacks during World War II and another one after the war. But before the general retired he continued to worry about the future of his “Air Corps” and worked to set in place a path that ensured the “Air Corps” would eventually become the great Air Force we are today. That’s service before self.
A more personal example for me is my father. I was born into an Air Force family. When I was growing up I realized my family’s life was not like everybody else’s. I don’t remember when that light bulb came on but it was a wide awakening. Being a part of a military family has its challenges as most of us know today. The never-ending long hours, the regular moves and wondering when dad is going away again were a constant part of our lives. In fact, I attended four different junior high schools in three years and three different high schools in four years. Not to mention all of these rules and standards that must be adhered to? I never really understood what drove my father to continue this type of life when it was impacting us (me). It’s a life that is a tough grind on the family.
Eventually, I got the opportunity to understand and appreciate what I believe my father felt and that is a love and a commitment to something more than just an eight-hour job. Yes, even though I hated the Air Force when I was younger, I think deep down I knew there was something special about serving my country.
As I looked back to my early days in the Air Force, I learned so much that helped me be successful. An article written by Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, Chief Master Sgt. Rodney McKinley, said that we don’t have to look any further than the “Little Blue Book,” the United States Air Force Core Values booklet. I took a few moments and read it. In it was the basic construct of what I learned at the beginning of my career. Duty takes precedence over personal desires, follow the rules, discipline and have faith in the system.
I share these items as food for thought. As leaders, we have the responsibility to mentor our young Airmen in making them better professionals with a strong desire to serve our country honorably. I challenge our leaders, our supervisors and all of us to take a moment and consider the basic tenant of service before self and how it applies to you as you serve this great nation of ours.