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Integrity and Leadership with Air Force Col. Jennifer Carns


Published October 20, 2022

Colonel Jennifer Carns relays the core values of the US Air Force and delves into the crucial role the service provides for America’s national strategy. The air force fulfills missions and supplies critical support for other military branches by providing airpower, anytime, anywhere. Working in the air force, Carns says, has given her a greater appreciation for American principles.


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Hi. My name is Jenn Carns and I am an officer in the United States Air Force. 

I was inspired to join the Air Force by my dad and some friends with whom I graduated high school. My dad served in the Army for a few years--they say the best Air Force recruiter is an Army parent and I am living proof of that.

I looked into joining because I admired those who served and wanted to see what it was like. I was hooked by the camaraderie and selfless dedication I saw. So I joined ROTC and never looked back.

Upon entering active duty, I have had so many interesting opportunities--working with amazing people, traveling to places I only read about in school, carrying out several different missions and most importantly, being a part of an amazing team, something bigger than me. 

The Air Force’s mission is to fly, fight, and win…Airpower anytime, anywhere. Airpower is a critical component to our competitive advantage as a Nation, making joint operations with our sister services even more effective.   

As our adversaries contest us in every domain, we must focus on innovating and adapting to the future fight.  To remain the most dominant and respected Air Force in the world, we must accelerate change so we are prepared to compete, deter and win.

Looking forward, America needs what Airmen do better than anyone else: air superiority; command and control; global strike capability; rapid global mobility; and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. 

It is our Total Force Airmen with their diverse specialties, expertise, and capabilities that make up our Air Force.  

As a communications and cyber operations officer, my career has largely focused on expeditionary communications. That involves supporting Air Force missions around the globe by establishing and maintaining communications infrastructure. Cyber officers also focus on offensive and defensive operations.  This includes targeting capabilities of adversaries and protecting our data and networks. Lastly, the majority of cyber officers work on the Department of Defense Information Network in order to secure Department of Defense cyberspace and preserve the confidentiality and integrity of the network.

When you serve, you gain a sense of purpose and camaraderie that is hard to find anywhere else. You learn from others who have diverse views.  You are surrounded by professionals with an unwavering dedication to safeguard our great Nation; those who share the same sense of patriotism; those who adhere to high standards and the Air Force’s core values of Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in all We Do; those that feel democracy is worth protecting. 

I believe every citizen should partake in national service and serve their country in some manner--not necessarily in a military capacity.  It would help build common values amongst society and give people a better understanding of our principles.   

For me, serving our country has given me more than I could ever give back.  I have been privileged to serve alongside so many great teammates.  As a leader, one must never forget you are responsible for someone’s parent, child, or sibling. You are entrusted with taking care of them and over time you end up leading more and more people. 

Leadership means inspiring others to accomplish a common goal. A leader needs to communicate well, actively listen, stand up for what is best for the organization, display humility and be honest with themselves and their people.  They should challenge the team to be more than they think they can be.  Leadership is about walking around and knowing the people.  A leader must establish a culture that promotes trust, motivates and empowers his or her subordinates. People can achieve great things together if their relationships are founded on trust.

I think one of the best leadership quotes is from the late Secretary Colin Powell: “You'll know you're a good leader when people will follow you… if only out of curiosity.”

It is so important to remember a leader will make an impact—they just need to ensure it is a good one.