The Three Air Force Core Values Every Sheepdog Should Know

By SDR Instructor and COO of Guardian Group, Jeff Tiegs

If you missed this story because it was buried in all the recent chaos, you may want to check it out. 

On May 21st, a terrorist gunman tried to speed through a base security gate at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas. The terrorist opened fire and wounded a sailor guarding the gate. Her name has not been released but we know that she is a Petty Officer 2nd Class and a member of NAS Corpus Christi base security. She was struck by a bullet but her protective vest stopped the round and saved her life. She was able to roll over and hit the switch that raised a barrier, preventing the terrorist from getting onto the base, and allowing other base security personnel to neutralize the threat. (1)

There are several things that stand out to me in this story:

  • A Petty Officer 2nd Class is equivalent to an E5 “Buck Sergeant” in the Army with usually a few years of service behind them. They have undergone all the basic training and preparation to be a professional sailor but are still pretty fresh into a career, if they even choose to make their service a “career”.
  • Her name has not been released (at least at the writing of this blog, I could not find it). This is an impressive display of a quiet professional and she has not sought the limelight.
  • She is pretty badass. (2)
  • This sailor epitomizes the Air Force Core Values

Look at the Air Force Core Values below. See how many of them the Petty Officer 2nd Class from Corpus Christi seemed to possess and see how many of them you seem to possess and/or aspire to.

The three Core Values of the Air Force are: (3)

  1. Integrity First
  2. Service Before Self
  3. Excellence in All We Do

Integrity First 

Integrity is the willingness to do what is right even when no one else is looking.  It is the "moral compass," the inner voice, the voice of self-control, the basis for the trust imperative in today's Air Force. 

Integrity is the single most important part of character. It makes Airmen who they are and what they stand for, and is as much a part of their professional reputation as their ability to fly or fix jets, operate a computer network, repair a runway, or defend an airbase. Airmen must be professional, both in and out of uniform. Integrity is not a suit that can be taken off at night or on the weekend or worn only when it is important to look good. People are always watching us, not to see us fail, but to see us live up to their expectations. 

Integrity is the adherence to a strong moral code and consistency in one’s actions and values. A person of integrity acts with conviction, demonstrating appropriate self-control without acting rashly. An Airman’s word is binding, and honesty is the foundation of that trust. Airmen always behave in a manner that brings credit upon themselves, their unit, the Air Force, and the profession of arms. Airmen should be guided by a deeply held sense of honor, not one of personal comfort or uncontrolled selfish appetites. 

Service Before Self

This core value is not about the Air Force institution, it is about an enduring commitment and dedication of the individual Airman to the age-old military virtue of selfless dedication to duty. This includes putting one’s life at risk if called to do so. It is a willingness to set aside one’s needs and to make personal sacrifices. It is an understanding of the 24-hour-a-day commitment that is expected. Service before self means taking the time and making the effort to properly plan and execute with precision regardless of the personal costs.  

Further, service before self does not mean service before family. Airmen have a duty to the Service and an equally strong duty to their families. The difference is there are times when service to the nation requires subordinating the needs of the family. It is the responsibility of the Airman to prepare and provide for his or her family when deployed or when duty requires it. Airmen understand they have a duty to fulfill the unit’s mission. This includes performing to the best of one’s abilities the assigned responsibilities and tasks without worrying how a career will be affected. As professionals, they exercise good judgment while performing their duties and understand rules exist for good reason. They also understand service before self asks us to subordinate our personal interests, attitudes, and aspirations to the greater cause and the demands it places on us. It means Airmen place the welfare of their peers and subordinates ahead of their own personal needs or comforts.  

Excellence in All We Do

This core value demands Airmen constantly strive to perform at their best.  It is a commitment to high standards and an understanding that each Airman has been entrusted with our nation’s security. Airmen understand the Air Force mission is very complex and exists in a constantly changing world. They understand that all efforts in planning and executing airpower are designed to ensure the national security interests of the United States. Therefore, they must always strive to meet or exceed standards objectively based on mission needs and continuously search for new and innovative ways to successfully accomplish the mission. It is not only a professional obligation but a moral responsibility as well.  

Airmen seek out and complete developmental education; work to stay in their best physical, mental, and moral shape; and continue to enhance their professional competencies. They are diligent to maintain their job skills, knowledge, and personal readiness at the highest possible levels. They understand organizational excellence can only be achieved when its members work together to successfully reach a common goal in an atmosphere that preserves individual self-worth. No Airman wins the fight alone.  Each organization should foster a culture that emphasizes a team mentality while maintaining high standards and accomplishing the mission. As stewards of the nation’s resources, Airmen should aggressively protect and manage both human and material assets.  

The most precious resource is people, and it is each Airman’s responsibility to ensure he or she is trained, fit, focused, and ready to accomplish the mission safely and effectively.

When you participate in one of the Sheepdog Response Courses, you will see these 3 Core Values reflected in everything we do. 


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4 Responses



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August 05, 2020

John and Zack- You guys are totally correct, I really botched that one. I was writing about Air Force Values when this terror event happened at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola and got so inspired by the story that I totally mixed up sailors and airmen. My lame excuse is that I am an Army guy and lived in my little Special Forces bubble and can barely tell the difference in my own service. I hope you appreciated the write up anyway. I owe you a write up on the US Navy Core Values.



June 07, 2020

Yeah the Air Force and Sailor cross over thing was a bit odd. BUT I got the point. SDR team I’m already hard to kill. Been training with retired SF guys and LEO with pistol, AR, weapons retention, and TCCC certified. I want to be harder to kill. Come back to the PNW for a class and I’m there.

Zack Lewis

Zack Lewis

June 07, 2020

For one, what does a 2nd class PO in the Navy have to do with the Air Force core values? For two, the core values of the US Navy are 1. Honor 2. Courage 3. Commitment

I think someone got a little too excited when they wrote this, not saying the story is awesome, but I’m really confused how Air Force core values get mixed in with a sailor? Just my thoughts.

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