As a retired active duty Air Force Commander, I upheld the Air Force Core Values of “Integrity First, Service Before Self and Excellence in All We Do.” You quickly learn the value of teamwork and how no one is above these core values. Those Airmen who neglect these principles are held accountable.

The West Point's Cadet Honor Code states, "A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, nor tolerate those who do." This code and the Air Force Core Values are why I feel compelled to write my first-ever letter to the editor. I can no longer tolerate the inexcusable, unethical behavior of Corey Stapleton.

This is not a partisan letter, as I have voted Republican for most of my adult life. No one has asked me to write this letter. This is simply a letter to ask Montanans to say enough is enough and hold him accountable. If Mr. Stapleton commits these egregious acts as the Secretary of State, what will he do if elected to Congress or any other position of leadership?

The Navy Core Values are Honor, Courage, and Commitment. These values are held in the highest regard by all members of the Navy and have been since the Navy's inception in 1775. Honor implies integrity and honesty. An honorable person would never steal, lie, or do less than their best. When Mr. Stapleton went to the Naval Academy, he accepted these values. When he announced his candidacy and lists his time in the Navy, the natural assumption is this is a military officer who epitomizes these core values.

Mr. Stapleton was fined $4,000 for using state resources to announce he was running for governor. He said he wasn’t aware of the requirements and it would never happen again. Later, we find out he misused a state vehicle and there are 406 days where the reasons for using the vehicle could not be determined. It is now over two months that these allegations were made and I have not seen where Mr. Stapleton has addressed this issue. Does he expect this to just go away? If Mr. Stapleton had misused a vehicle while serving in the Navy, or used Navy letterhead to advance a personal agenda, he would be held accountable. This is a man who uses the taxes of hard-working Montanans for his own personal gain.

He now aspires to pursue a leadership position within Congress that has oversight of the military. Mr. Stapleton appears to have forgotten that he is accountable to the people of Montana and appears to have forsaken the core values of the organization that paid for his college. This appears to be a man who is willing to cut corners. We need to know our politicians represent the values we hold dear. We need to respect them and we need to know they put their constituents ahead of their personal agendas.

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Pete Gardzina of Helena is a retired Air Force colonel who served as the Deputy Mission Support Group Commander at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, and twice deployed into combat.


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