US Air Force Values & Standards

US Air Force Values

The following US Air Force values are a commitment each Airman makes when joining the Air Force. These values provide a foundation for leadership, decision-making, and success, no matter the level of an Airman’s assignment, the difficulty of the task at hand, or the dangers presented by the mission.

  • Integrity First: 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 honour, not one of personal comfort or uncontrolled selfish appetites.
  • Service before Self: As an Air Force core value, service 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 at all times and in all circumstances. 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, accepting expeditionary deployments and assignments away from home and accomplishing the task at hand no matter the hardship. Service before self means taking the time and making the effort to properly plan and execute with precision regardless of the personal costs. Service before self is total commitment to the highest ideals of personal sacrifice in defence of the Constitution and the United States.
  • 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.

The Air Force recognises these core values as universal and unchanging in the profession of arms. They provide the standards with which to evaluate the ethical climate of all Air Force organisations. Finally, when needed in the cauldron of war, they are the beacons vectoring the individual along the path of professional conduct and the highest ideals of integrity, service, and excellence.

US Air Force Levels of Leadership

  • Tactical Expertise: Personal competencies are the primary focus at the tactical expertise level. Airmen are also gaining a general understanding of team leadership and an appreciation for organisational leadership. Airmen at this level master their core duty skills, develop experiences in applying those skills, and begin to acquire the knowledge and experience that will produce the qualities essential to effective leadership. Airmen at the tactical expertise level are the Air Force’s technicians and specialists.
  • Operational Competence: The full-spectrum of institutional competencies is balanced across the operational competence leadership level. At this level, Airmen are able to understand the broader Air Force perspective and the integration of diverse people and their capabilities in the execution of operations. This level is where an Air Force member transitions from being a specialist to understanding Air Force operational capabilities.
  • Strategic Vision: At this level, Airmen combine highly developed personal and people/team institutional competencies to apply broad organisational competencies. They develop a deep understanding of Air Force capabilities and how Airmen achieve synergistic results and desired effects with their operational capabilities. They also understand how the Air Force operates within joint, multinational, and interagency relationships. At this level, an Airman’s required competencies transition from the integration of people with missions to leading and directing exceptionally complex and multi-tiered organisations.

US Air Force Institutional Competencies

  • Personal: Embodies Airman Culture and Communicating.
  • People/Team: Leading People and Fostering Collaborative Relationships.
  • Organisational: Employing Military Capabilities, Enterprise Perspective, Managing Organisations and Resources, and Strategic Thinking.

Leadership is fundamental to the US Air Force. Creating future Air Force leaders is the responsibility of the current leaders, and force development is their tool to do so.


USAF (US Air Force) (1985) Air Force Publication 35-49: Air Force Leadership. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 22 June, 2017].

US Air Force (2015) Core Doctrine – Volume 2, Leadership. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 22 June, 2017].

US Air Force (2017) Core Doctrine – Volume 2, Leadership. Annex 1-1 – Force Development. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 22 June, 2017].

Keller, J. (2014) Military Leadership and Leaders. ENDC Proceedings, Volume 19, pp.26-45. Available from World Wide Web: [Accessed: 22 June, 2107].


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