Being a Wingman

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Michael P. Deselich
  • 934th Mission Support Group deputy commander
You probably first experienced the feeling of being or having a good wingman in your youth.  You were asked to watch your younger sibling or stay together with your friend to remain safe.  You were asked to be responsible, to watch out for strangers and stay away from certain areas or out of trouble.  These instructions were simple and memorable. 

Today, the concept behind being a wingman has not really changed.  As members of the Air Force, we are part of a unique and elite family.  We are mission focused and have responsibilities beyond what most outside of the military can imagine.   We operate, maintain and support a wide variety of assets, but most importantly we need to be accountable to those around us.  They are our teammates, crew partners, spotters...wingmen.  Someone we can count on to have our back, just as we have theirs.

At no other time in the history of the Air Force has a greater emphasis been placed on the health, safety and well-being of its Airmen.  The focus being placed on ensuring our members are educated and are equipped with the resources necessary to act and react have had a positive impact.  The training we receive helps us identify situations we may not encounter regularly, but require our actions to eliminate or at least minimize, negative consequences.  

Our actions assist and protect our members, but being a good wingman extends beyond the front gate and beyond those in uniform.  Our focus cannot exclude family and friends, neighbors and co-workers, as they too have an impact on our well-being, just as we can have an impact on theirs.  We need to be comfortable stepping in or stepping up when the situation arises to lend a hand, lend an ear or lend a shoulder to our wingmen, whether they are in or out of uniform.  We have access to a wide variety of support resources when the situation expands beyond our comfort zone, but first and foremost and without trying to sound too cliché, we should not leave our wingman. 

Although the term "wingman" is catchy and very fitting for the Air Force, we need to accept the concept and responsibility behind it in our daily lives.   We have the insights, training and connections to work within a significant support network to handle the simple issues, as well as to get help for the more complex.  If each of us can provide the basics by looking out for each other when the situation does not feel right and extend a hand when others are reaching out, we are filling the role of a good wingman.