Commentary by Lt. Col. Kevin Williams
50th Civil Engineer Squadron commander
While attending the U.S. Air Force Academy, I violated the honor code and almost didn’t graduate. Even though others were involved, I had to accept the fact that the issue was really about me and not anyone else. I’ve always strived to be a person of good character, but having failed in this area, I had a decision to make. I could lie about the situation in an effort to wrongly convince others (my superiors, family and friends) of my high moral character and innocence. In doing this, even though I may have achieved my academic goals, my character would have been tainted and the issue would eventually raise its head again, possibly in a more severe circumstance. The other option was to tell the truth while suffering the academic and professional consequences, but at the same time repairing the breach in my character.
As I thought about my predicament, I wondered how I got to the point where I was about to throw away four years of hard work. The answer was simple, I had gotten away with things during a period of time and it caught up with me. I was lacking discipline in some areas and I never dealt with the lack of discipline until I was forced to. Such is the case for a vast majority of people who live on the edge and stretch the limits of right and wrong. Fortunately, I chose the correct way to deal with the situation. If I hadn’t, I don’t think I would be in the position I’m in today. First, I admitted what I had done wrong and surprisingly, received a lot of support. Second, I made a conscious decision that when faced with the same or similar temptations, I wouldn’t participate. My experience at the Academy helped me to understand firsthand why practicing integrity in every situation is important.
If you’re doing something you shouldn’t be doing, consider my situation and make the right decision. If you don’t, chances are it’s going to catch up with you and negatively impact you as well as your career. A disciplined person does what’s right because it’s the right thing to do. They don’t have to be told to do it or have someone watch over them to force them to do it.
Do what’s right and you won’t go wrong: “integrity first.”