Education and Character in the Air Force

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. Donald Bacon
  • 55th Wing commander
"To educate a person in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society," President Theodore Roosevelt.

We are blessed to be in the United States Air Force where great emphasis is placed on education. Opportunities for basic or advanced degrees, professional military education, on the job training, and career broadening abound and our Air Force team and individual airmen all benefit. I was reminded of this fact this past week as we handed out 157 Community College of the Air Force degrees to hardworking airmen and after visiting 47 senior airmen and staff sergeants who are in Airman Leadership School, preparing to be the best Non-Commission Officers in our Air Force. I'm proud our Air Force embraces education.

Continuing our education gives us more breadth and depth as airmen. It helps us see additional courses of actions in problem solving and to better foresee consequences from our decisions. Education opens up doors and enables us to compete for higher levels of responsibility. We all need in our hearts the desire for continuous self-improvement. Individuals who are not striving for improvement are destined to be second rate performers over time, and won't be the leaders of our Air Force tomorrow.

Our Air Force as an institution needs this same spirit of continuous improvement. We need to continuously improve our weapons systems, technology, tactics, leadership skills, training, professional development of our airmen, and on and on. If our Air Force doesn't improve and just stays constant, we'll be the third or fourth best Air Force in the world in 10 years, and that would be a total failure for our nation. Educated airmen will keep our Air Force on the cutting edge in this unstable world.

Let's not forget that while continuous education and improvement is vital, it will never trump the basic need for our Core Values. Education without a foundation of character and selflessness is useless. The most important attributes we'll always require in our airmen will be integrity, selflessness and a heart for excellence... these values give us trust and confidence within our Service and with our citizens. I heard a great chief master sergeant say this week that education doesn't make us good, but makes us better. I agree... it is our core values that make us good.

Our Air Force leaders are confident in our future even in this tough fiscal environment because of the quality of our airmen... airmen with Core Values, the best educated airmen in the world, and airmen who are always seeking to raise the bar of their own performance and potential.