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During an assignment in Japan we had the chance to see many foreign & U.S. dignitaries.  On one such visit, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force (a 4-Star General) visited.   The Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force traveled with him & it's his comments I'd like to share.

He began his talk by saying there are some things that keep him up at night like suicides, domestic violence and assaults.  The point he made was that none of these are indications we are living in to our core values.  The organization's values aren't just words on posters.  They are guidelines we all must strive to live up to.  If you don't know what your personal core values are, these are a good place to start.

  • Integrity
  • Service
  • Excellence

He continued with the things that don't keep him up at night but are nonetheless important to maintain our focus on.

  • Leadership development
  • Training
  • Resilience

Becoming the best leader you can is a lifelong process.  Embrace the journey & see opportunities for growth everywhere.  Training prepares us for "known" aspects of our endeavors.  Take is seriously.  In times of stress, our lowest level of training informs our initial reactions.  Resilience is a whole person concept involving care of our emotional, spiritual, emotional & physical needs.  To be at your best more often, these three main concepts will get you there.

He also shared this acronym that helps explain areas critical for success.


  • Character
  • A positive attitude
  • Discipline
  • Excellence
  • Teamwork

Your strong character is the foundation for any success.  We don't always have the education or training for every situation but your character will get you through any challenge.  Attitude is everything, pick a good one, it's infectious.  Keep the bar for excellence high, don't settle.  Settling actually hurts everyone on the team.  Teamwork starts with caring for everyone on the team because they all matter.

Additional Thoughts

The order of core values, whether personal or organizational, is important.  In this example, integrity must come first.  If someone chases excellence first they may sacrifice integrity to get there and so on.  The order matters.  Aside from the order, to have a healthy relationship to each core value we must feed them all equally.  Think of them like roots to your tree; you wouldn't feed part of the tree over another because eventually the whole tree dies.

Thanks for your wisdom & selfless service to our nation Chief Wright!

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This technology is supported in part by New Technologies for Ag Extension (funding opportunity no. USDA-NIFA-OP-010186), grant no. 2023-41595-41325 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the Extension Foundation. For more information, please visit You can view the terms of useat

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