The basics: honesty, respect, compassion

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Matthew Fisher
  • 48th Intelligence Squadron commander
Honesty, respect and compassion have great importance in everyday life. I consider these three tenets to be the basic building blocks of human relationships.

As Americans, we are taught early that honesty is a virtue, that one must show respect to earn respect and that learning compassion requires standing in someone else's shoes. All of these are pretty simple ideas. After all, people don't want to be lied to; they want to be respected for who they are. They want to know they are understood. I think it's best summed up by the adage, "Treat others the way you wish to be treated."

As Airmen, we are committed to not only upholding those standards but exceeding them in everything we do. When we raise our right hand and repeat the oath of enlistment or the oath of office, we affirm to ourselves and our fellow Airmen to commit to 100 percent accountability and to uphold a higher standard of responsible behavior. We are expected to hold ourselves and each other accountable for our actions, good or bad. Accountable and responsible behavior begins with adherence to the tenets of honesty, respect and compassion.

These basic tenants not only mesh nicely with the Air Force Core Values, but they are building blocks of Integrity, Service, and Excellence in all we do. It's useful to draw the following dependencies: "Integrity First" depends upon honesty to engender trust; "Service Before Self" depends upon compassion by placing others ahead of your own desires or needs; and "Excellence In All We Do" depends upon respect to the institution, people and mission. Understanding these dependencies helps me internalize the Air Force's institutional values, strive to uphold the highest standards, and live up to the commitment I made to myself and my fellow Airmen.

After all, living out these standards and holding ourselves and our fellow Airmen accountable engenders mutual trust and confidence, allowing for much more productive personal and professional relationships. Successful relationships are the foundation of teamwork, and teamwork is the foundation of mission success.

Think back to your most memorable job, deployment or unit. You might remember the job pretty well and even most of the tasks. But the one thing that makes that time most memorable is the people, relationships and camaraderie. The sentimental centerpiece of every farewell, promotion and retirement ceremony I have attended was "the people" and the lifelong friendships that were crafted along the way.

Sometimes we lose sight of how important the basics really are and must pause to remember. The basics are from where we draw our strength as the best air force in the world.

It all starts with these simple values: don't lie, be respectful and don't judge someone until you can stand in their shoes. These are the basic building blocks for successful relationships in everyday life as followers, leaders and Airmen. They form the core of our core values. They are mission critical. Honesty, respect and compassion are the basics. Don't leave home without them.