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Core values start with oath

WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- For the Air Force core values program to be effective, those values must be linked to the oath taken when entering military service, said Rabbi Arnold Resnicoff, special assistant to the Air Force secretary and chief of staff for values and vision.

"Core values (form) a framework for a vision," he said. "There are things we will not accept. There is a difference in being a part of the total Air Force and outside of the Air Force. We need to ask ourselves how our life changes once we take that oath." 

Rabbi Resnicoff believes taking an oath to serve is one of the most important events in a person's life.

"Your swearing ... taking an oath ... take a few moments to understand the importance of it and how the core values will be the vehicle for us to discuss that change for the rest of the time you are in the Air Force," he said.

"Our responsibilities change with that oath," the rabbi said. "The word 'core' is as important as the word 'values.' We live in a world and Air Force where we are learning not just to respect diversity but embrace it and appreciate it, because it brings differences to the table and allows us to think outside the box."

Rabbi Resnicoff believes most citizens try to balance their rights with their responsibilities. For the Air Force member the core values are the values that drive the responsibility.

"Service before self means that once I take that oath, responsibility comes first," he said. "I don’t give up all my rights, but I really start with my responsibility.

"Integrity means we've taken an oath that says we will obey the orders of our superiors," Rabbi Resnicoff said. "We have as much responsibility not to obey an illegal or immoral order as we have to obey one that is legal or moral. We have the responsibility to speak up if we think the judgment or orders are not wise. If they are legal and moral then it is a matter of integrity and service before self to follow them." 

Since becoming the special assistant for values and vision in 2005, Rabbi Resnicoff's role was to start a dialogue on the meaning of Air Force core values.

"One of the things I wanted to do from the very beginning is connect the dots," he said. "One of the dangers in the military is when you have a problem, a solution for that problem (is) a workshop, lecture or training. There is a danger of program overload and ending up with a patchwork quilt, so what you are doing here doesn't necessarily strengthen what you are doing there."
 
Rabbi Resnicoff's tenure ends June 23. He reflected on where he feels the Air Force is in terms of core values and what must be done to sustain them.

"Values discussion needs to start at the top with Air Force leaders, but our values cross all lines throughout the military," he said. "General (T. Michael) Moseley and Secretary (Michael W.) Wynne are doing a wonderful job trying to bring the core values out more and more. I think we have men and women in the Air Force that we can be proud of, and we have people who base their actions and decisions on values.

For the future, Rabbi Resnicoff would like to see the Air Force "make the core values an easy test," he said.

"A plan, policy or decision -- does it pass the integrity test, the service before self test, the excellence test?" When the core value program can allow Airmen to answer these questions, "then it can be a real tool in our hands for complicated situations," he said.

Part of that test is in defining terms associated with core values.

"There is some confusion when it comes to the terms we use, and we need to figure out a way to talk about the right issues in ways that make sense," he said. "For so many people, (they) think loyalty means keeping your mouth shut when a friend is in trouble.

"We need to have a discussion that says loyalty means getting involved, like friends don't let friends drive drunk. And for the term 'diversity,' it means understanding that we have to get away from group think and have people bring different ways of thinking and lessons to the table to make us all stronger."

Secretary of the Air Force Wynne presented Rabbi Resnicoff the Exceptional Civilian Service award June 16 for his yearlong contribution to the Air Force core values program.

"At a time when the Air Force needed that bit of support determining where our roots were and where we're going, Rabbi Resnicoff was just the fix," Secretary Wynne said. "He has a great manner, is unafraid to speak his mind, (tells) you where the touchstones are, and he's done a remarkable job helping our Air Force."

"I leave with a sense that I am greatly honored to have been a part of the Air Force family and to have planted a seed here and there to start some initiatives," Rabbi Resnicoff said. "I would say to the men and women today that one day the next generation is going to be looking at them. Are they going to be the heroes for the next generation? That decision has to affect the smallest actions and words that we decide on right now."

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