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Pillars of Wing Culture: Values, Diversity and Accountability

MOFFETT FEDERAL AIRFIELD, Calif. -- This year the 129th Rescue Wing has been visited by more statesmen, senior military commanders, civic leaders, and corporate executives than any other time in wing history. They all share a common desire to personally convey their pride and appreciation to the extraordinary women and men who continue to accomplish heroic acts of service to our nation, California, and the local community. As your commander I am frequently asked, "To what can this be attributed?" My response is simple: Culture.

Our wing's success is firmly rooted in a culture based on three pillars; the first being our Air Force core values of integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do. The second pillar is diversity. The 129th Rescue Wing is one of the most diverse organizations in the Air National Guard today. Diversity is a force multiplier in the accomplishment of our mission, and has proven decisive across the spectrum of operations at home and abroad. The wing reflects the make-up of the local community nearly one-to-one in terms of people, language, ideas, and skills. That's an incredible feat given the diversity of the San Francisco Bay Area and would not be possible without the qualities of respect and inclusion that each of you share as Airmen. We must continue to diversify our ranks with the human potential that surrounds us.

The third pillar is perhaps the most important, for equal opportunity cannot exist without equal accountability. As Airmen, we are not only accountable to each other in the profession of arms; but to the laws that govern all of us as citizens, and the good order and discipline required to serve in the military. Americans have entrusted us with great responsibility and the instruments of lethal power. Violate this trust, and our purpose no longer has meaning.

Culture cannot be directed from the top, it must be deeply rooted and rise from the bottom. Those who weaken our culture through their own selfish pursuits weaken our viability as a military force. That cannot be tolerated.

When mistakes happen, we'll rally together and fix them. Owning the problem enables a solution. I fully expect mistakes to happen and that they will facilitate a learning experience. However, crimes such as fraud, sexual assault or theft of government property are not mistakes. They are premeditated acts that violate the very purpose of why we exist as a military: to defend the American people and to protect the ideals codified in the constitution.

The 129th Rescue Wing has referred two cases to civil authorities for crimes perpetrated by Airmen; both resulted in guilty findings and are awaiting sentencing. Other cases involving egregious misconduct are receiving appropriate action with due process afforded by law. While these individuals represent less than 1% of our wing, they cause tremendous distraction and public scrutiny. Resolving these matters requires time and, unfortunately, precious funds that would otherwise go toward training and readiness. The outcomes may not always be public, but the distractors who tarnish all that we represent will be permanently removed. The reputation of the majority who serve with honor should not be damaged because of the actions of a few. Therefore, it is incumbent on all of us as Wingmen to identify and root out those who would exploit others, commit crimes or bring discredit to our Air Force uniform.

The wing will perform a sexual assault prevention and response stand-down day during the August Unit Training Assembly. Participation is mandatory. Those who cannot attend must make up the training before August 30, 2013. This training serves as an important reminder of the necessary vigilance required to look out for one another as Wingmen, and to ensure that those few individuals who fail to prescribe to our culture are held accountable for their actions. We owe this much to the 129th Airmen who bravely sacrificed so that others may live.