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Core values: Air Force's clear roadmap to correctness

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- In a letter to his grandson, Thomas Jefferson exposed a weighty vulnerability in all of us.

An excerpt of the letter reads, "My Dear Grandson: Your situation, thrown at such a distance from us, and alone, cannot but give me great anxieties for you. 

"Thrown on a wide world among entire strangers, without a friend or guardian to advise, so young too and with so little experience of mankind, your dangers are great, and still your safety must rest on yourself. A determination never to do what is wrong, imprudence, and bad humor, will go far toward securing to you safety in the world. 

"An acquaintance with various sorts of bad company from time to time will assure that you are as worthless to society as they. It will be your good fortune to associate with characters of high standing so that you may use their influence to avoid temptations and difficulties. This mode of deciding will tend more to correctness than any reasoning powers that you possess and cause you never to doubt which of two courses would be in character for you and lead to the prudent selection and steady pursuit of what is right for you and your country." 

Although these words were written 200 years ago, their truth and wisdom are as valid today as then. 

Unlike Mr. Jefferson's grandson, we have a course of action to lead all of us through distance from family and home. The Air Force core values provide us a clear roadmap towards correctness and the right path to travel. Integrity, service before self and excellence in all we do are powerful words that bind all of us to a thread of common decency. 

The Air Force also provides a ready-made environment by supplying a cadre of sound leadership through peers and the chain of command. A myriad of mentors and senior advisors are readily available to consult with and guide us in the realms of integrity and personal reputation.

This infrastructure of support and assistance is available to anyone, anywhere at anytime. In the end, however, as Mr. Jefferson emphasized, our safety and our prudence rest only with ourselves. We must chose wisely. 

As public servants and supporters of liberty around the world, we're charged to perform at the highest standard of career skills and personal habits for our profession and our country. The privileged opportunity to join the world's finest military was a personal choice each of us made.

On the other hand, we have no choice in our responsibility to live a quality life and associate with companions of fine character. Embrace this mandate of integrity, service before self and excellence in all we do as exposure to positive influence, an assurance of well being and a journey to the riches of success in all life's activities.