Habit of Excellence

Presidio of Monterey, Calif. -- "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit." Aristotle

I am in constant awe of the talent we're bringing in to the Air Force. Along with our Army, Marine and Navy counterparts here at the Defense Language Institute, they are without a doubt representative of the top one percent our nation has to offer. They arrive from basic training having just learned our Core Values of Integrity, Service, Excellence, yet I am amazed at exactly how well they are able to live by them. In just the past month, 517th Training Group Airmen have volunteered in droves every weekend for at least five community events, topped DLI's historical average with the highest graduation rates to date, led a DLI-wide Memorial Day ceremony and in amazing fashion, captured the Commander's Cup for the third straight quarter.

That third consecutive victory inspired me to think about excellence and what it takes to achieve it. I think most people would agree that you can achieve "excellent" results a lot of the time with only a moderate amount of effort, but don't confuse that with excellence. Excellence, as our Core Values intends, is much deeper. Excellence is not necessarily a result. Excellence is the attitude, dedication and perseverance put forth to achieve the best possible results. Excellence is accepting the outcome, whether success or failure, with the integrity to say, "this is the best I could do." Excellence is a consistent, sustained and unrelenting pursuit to always do better. Excellence is all about the character of the individual and the organization, not just the task at hand. As I look to our run team's string of excellent results, I see true excellence...Excellence that is profoundly inseparable from integrity and service.

The 517th TRG run team demonstrated excellence with integrity, knowing that even after long days of military and academic duties, they still owed the miles, the nutrition, the personal sacrifice to do individually what would be most beneficial for the team. They kept themselves in the best physical, academic and military shape possible so they could remain eligible to compete. At every practice, at every race, they looked their fellow Airmen in the eye to say they had done everything they could possibly do to achieve victory... they would not falter and they would not fail. Indeed, their concept of service is equally as flawless. They did not compete for an individual reward, a trophy or for personal gain. They competed because their individual efforts reflected not only on the team, but on the 1,300 Airmen who were counting on them.

So, to the 517th TRG Airmen who have brought us so much pride and distinction on the Presidio, thank you for the inspiration you gave me and our fellow Airmen. Certainly, all 1,300 Airmen of the 517th TRG are exemplifying the Core Values. In all their various achievements from the drill pad to the classroom, throughout the community and, indeed, on the field of competition, they make "Excellence" a habit we are dedicated to continuing.