Integrity today means an Air Force career tomorrow

Maj. James Rich

Today’s Air Force continues to emphasize the whole person concept and foot stomps that what we do both on and off duty can affect the length and success of our military careers.
It should be obvious to even the newest Airmen that on-duty actions heavily determine the speed of promotion, getting that primo job or duty assignment, or working on the newest cutting edge weapons system. But many may not know or realize that off-duty actions can have just as serious impacts on a career as their on-duty actions.
The Air Force historically has used its technological prowess and innovation to thwart the actions of our enemies. While the former Soviet bloc countries deployed vast numbers of tanks and aircraft, the Air Force’s plan relied on a limited number of advanced aircraft, munitions, and information technologies to defeat them in a time of war or limited conflict.
These systems limited the amount of personnel placed in danger and dramatically increased the efficiency and reduced the duration of combat operations.
For example, the first Persian Gulf War took less than 45 days of air operations to subdue the Iraqi forces under Saddam Hussein, and only just 30 days for the Iraqi government to fall 12 years later in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM.
Although these systems provide an incredible capability they are extremely expensive; our enemies want this technology to use it against us or develop methods for defeating them.
What does this have to do with integrity and off-duty actions? Many of these new weapon systems require special clearances and background checks to even handle the parts, work on the communication systems needed, or just to look at the aircraft in a maintenance configuration. Many Airmen are not passing the clearance requirements due to past off-duty problems such as bankruptcy, DUIs, family issues, and even Blog postings on the Internet.
These past issues will not keep these Airmen from working the systems currently in operation, but they will never get to work the newer system being deployed such as the F-22A Raptor and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Who wants to be stationed in Virginia, New Mexico, Alaska, Hawaii, or Florida? If you ask Airmen this question , I bet many will say they want to be stationed in one or all of these locations. Guess where the F-22A and the F-35s are going to call home? That’s right, in those very locations. If off-duty actions and integrity issues are in question for an Airmen, he or she might as well take these great locations off their assignment dream sheet, as well as the promotion opportunities they present.
The Air Force and the United States taxpayer spent vast sums of money developing these systems to keep us safe and do not want our adversaries to gather intelligence or other information on the capability and means to defeat these cutting-edge systems. No one will deny that those people selected to work the newest aircraft, information, or munitions systems are some of the best and brightest that the Air Force has to offer. But I ask: Do you think we need to risk the safety and security of this country to those we cannot trust both on and off duty, or those who do not show they exemplify the core values of the Air Force?
We all should think about this before any of us let our actions off-duty affect a great Air Force career.