Benjamin Spall

The Core Values of the Air Force


Whether you’re a student of history, a military buff, or you simply appreciate the value of gaining insights and understanding from areas in which you may not be personally familiar, studying the core values of the Air Force is a great way to honor the men and women who put their lives on the line every day in order to keep us safe.

While there are many air forces around the world, in this article I will focus on the United States Air Force. Said to “serve with a commitment to three core values,” the U.S. Air Force maintains an objective of global vigilance, reach, and power by remaining true to their vision statement to be the world’s greatest air force.

Similar to the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Air Force embraces three core values. (The U.S. Army has seven.) Read on to uncover the three core values of the U.S. Air Force.

What are the Core Values of the Air Force?

Fully-embraced by the U.S. Air Force in 1995, the three core values of the Air Force are: Integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do.

Let’s take a look at each of these values in full:

1) Integrity First

According to the U.S. Air Force website, the first core value of the Air Force is around putting integrity first in all that they do:

An Airman is a person of integrity, courage, and conviction. They must be willing to control their impulses and exercise courage, honesty, and accountability in order to do what is right even when no one is looking.

In my article on character traits I highlighted integrity as a key positive character trait. Acting the same in private as you do in public. Being complete and incorruptible. Combined with courageousness—the act of displaying bravery when it is needed most—integrity is rightly hailed as one of the U.S. Air Force’s core values.

2) Service Before Self

The second core value of the Air Force focuses on putting service before self. Again, from the website of the U.S. Air Force:

An Airman’s professional duties take precedence over personal desires. Every Airman is expected to have the discipline to follow rules, exhibit self-control and possess respect for the beliefs, authority and worth of others.

While self-reliance is a valued character trait, putting service before self means that you focus on the whole instead of the individual. It means that you are respectful of others not only because that’s the right way to be, but because this respect is crucial in the fields of war. It means that you will weather any storm that comes your way in order to protect those around you.

3) Excellence in All We Do

The final core value of the Air Force is that of bringing excellence into all that they do:

An Airman strives for continual improvement in self and service in order to propel the Air Force further and to achieve greater accomplishment and performance for themselves and their community.

When you are dedicated to the work at hand, you quickly begin to bring excellence into all that you do. Instead of focusing on the areas in which you are already strong in, you train yourself in areas in which you need to improve. Continual improvement is the goal—now and always.

The Airman’s Creed of the U.S. Air Force

Keeping the theme of the core values of the Air Force, the Airman’s Creed of the U.S. Air Force reads as a mission statement that states that “Through shared values, key capabilities and upholding our Airman’s Creed, we continue to achieve our mission and aim high in all we do.”

Calling the Airman’s Creed “our promise to country and colleagues,” here it is in full:

I am an American Airman. I am a Warrior. I have answered my Nation’s call.

I am an American Airman. My mission is to Fly, Fight, and Win. I am faithful to a Proud Heritage, A Tradition of Honor, And a Legacy of Valor.

I am an American Airman. Guardian of Freedom and Justice, My Nation’s Sword and Shield, Its Sentry and Avenger. I defend my Country with my Life.

I am an American Airman. Wingman, Leader, Warrior. I will never leave an Airman behind, I will never falter, And I will not fail.


Studying the core values of the Air Force allows us to recognize the power of having core values not just in the military, but in our day-to-day, civilian lives.

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Benjamin Spall is the co-author of My Morning Routine (Portfolio/Penguin). He has written for outlets including the New York Times, New York Observer, Quartz, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, CNBC, and more.