Honor and respect among Airmen

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MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL AIR RESERVE STATION, Minn. — The following script is credited to the motion picture Rob Roy.

Son: Father, will the MacGregors ever be kings again? 

Robert Roy MacGregor: All men with honor are kings. But not all kings have honor.

Son: What is honor?

Robert Roy MacGregor: Honor is what no man can give you, and none can take away. Honor is a man’s gift to himself.

Son: Do women have it?

Robert Roy MacGregor: Women have the heart of honor. And we cherish and protect it in them. You must never mistreat a woman, or a lame man. Or stand by and see another do so.

Son: How do you know if you have it? 

Robert Roy MacGregor: Never worry on the getting of it. It grows in you, and speaks to you. All you need do is listen.

Honor is a word often used, particularly in the military. It is easy to grow complacent in the use of the word, but its meaning is essential to the profession of arms and to success in our mission. We fight for our nation when called to battle, are entrusted with the defense of our nation and are held to a higher standard than those around us.

For many years, Gallup polls on confidence in institutions have indicated that American society regards the military with more confidence than any other institution included in the poll, with 73 percent answering a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in our military in 2016. Congress, by contrast, earned 9 percent.

We enjoy the reputation that our greatest predecessors and comrades have earned, a great many of whom have knowingly made the ultimate sacrifice. We have an obligation to serve with honor and do our best to be worthy of that reputation so that we can pass it on to those who will take up the mantle when we are gone. We must do this not only because it is the right thing to do, but also to show them how it is done, as our best role models did for us. They led us, they inspired us, they helped develop the best qualities in us, and together we achieve success for our nation. We owe that to those who will take our places and shape the Airmen behind them.

This week, there is public outrage over a scandal concerning Marines posting nude photos of fellow Marines on social media without their knowledge or permission, and the deeply disturbing commentary about them in posts that followed. The Marine times published a story two days ago which included a quote from Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Robert Neller, who condemned the behavior that’s been alleged. “The success of every Marine, every team, every unit and command throughout our Corps is based on mutual trust and respect. I expect every Marine to demonstrate the highest integrity and loyalty to fellow Marines at all times, on duty, off-duty and online.”

If the allegations are true, some of our fellow service members chose words and actions that harmed their comrades while degrading and bringing shame upon our military family, and as military members, we are all damaged by the stain. Our comrades, recruits, retirees and our nation deserve better. Our success as a fighting force depends on mutual trust, confidence in our comrades, crewmates and commanders, and honorable conduct on and off the field of battle.

I know that our culture is strong, and that behavior of this type is considered unacceptable to almost all of our Airmen, but if we have even one that considers this type of behavior okay, that is one too many. Please help us to keep our family of Airmen strong by fostering and reinforcing mutual respect and honor for all. That’s what great Airmen do.

Every Airman deserves to be treated with respect, and every Airman is expected to act with honor. We have no place in our ranks for and cannot tolerate those who will not.