Commentary: Who of us are good Wingmen?

by Master Sgt. Michael Holmes
51st Civil Engineer Squadron

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea – If you already said you are, you may want to reevaluate your stance or at least ponder if there is more you could do. To be a good wingman is not to believe yourself so, it is for others to perceive and accept. That quick pep talk you gave or the semi-serious safety briefing that was presented before the weekend may not mean as much as you thought. To truly become someone’s wingman, you have to be an intrusive leader. Be involved in and share the responsibility for our member’s success or failure. It is more than just saying or briefing what to do, it is also the actions you take with the member to get it done. Intrusive leadership reflects the fact that everyone matters and that you are there when they need you and when they think they don’t.

The vision for the squadron ties directly into being a good wingman. Ready Airmen who embrace their core values and provide complete customer service. Seems simple right? What if I told you that each individual’s core values are different which also drives the other two to either success or failure? Yes, we have the Air Force core values, but do you know if our members truly understand what they mean?

Are we ready? Readiness is not just the fight tonight mission but also ready to take care of one another and ourselves. We see this readiness build within our members as we help them in filing their travel voucher, getting their required upgrade training completed or as we provide shop training on career field or more general activities to enhance and hone our skills.

The core values, while they seem simple, can be quite complex for some. When a member has an ethical dilemma, where they are forced to choose between two “rights” or have uncertainty of what is right, we find they need good wingmen and leaders around them to help make the best decision. What if they chose a path without guidance and do not see the second and third order of effects? Will you be there to support them then? Or do they see you as a wingman and when they are struggling, they feel comfortable reaching out to you to reach a best case scenario decision? We cannot choose when to support, we must support always. Sometimes we just need a simple translation of our leader’s decisions. If our wingmen do not fully understand, take the time to explain and truly connect with each other to ensure we are all successful.

Let’s face it, our character traits are all different. Character traits may include kindness, honesty and virtue. While one’s personality shows what you are outwardly, or what type of person you are perceived as, your character reveals what you are inside. Our character refers to a set of morals and beliefs that defines how we treat each other or behave around others and even when alone. Sounds just like the core values to me. If you find someone needs or desires a new vector, help them out. In the end, who we are, the name we have made and the actions we take are our legacy.

As we look inwardly to our core values, integrity first is arguably the most important when you think about being a good wingman. To do what is right when no one is looking is one thing, but to do what is right when you have those tough decisions to hold people accountable, in helping others realize their weaknesses and strengths, guiding our personnel to success or holding the line when they have failed… that is the true test of integrity. Let me ask you, when faced with a tough decision or when you see someone struggling to uphold our shared values or beliefs, are you willing to do what is right? Do you have the integrity of a leader who can listen to their inner voice and exercise and assist others with self-control? With integrity comes honesty. Our words must be unquestionable so we build upon and hold tight to the trust that unites us through common goals and purpose. Are you ready to hold yourself and others accountable? As you think about this remember, I said it’s not as simple as a three value catch phrase. Through our integrity, we build loyalty with our subordinates, peers and leaders.

Our duty is to perform what is required for the mission, our loyalty is our internal commitment to our success. Our duties to be good leaders, mentors and followers must take precedence over our own personal desires. Our personal discipline is our commitment to uphold the highest standards of personal and professional conduct. Be this at work or downtown. We require teamwork at every level to complete the mission and we must distinguish and highlight the interdependency of each of our contributions to the mission and endeavor for organizational excellence. Perfection is not demanded, excellence is.

So internalize this, reflect on your actions and past inactions, take care of one another, sustain and improve the mission and remember that we create our legacy.

We not only must give our all but also must challenge and motivate each other. We all should strive to carry our own weight and do our best however, help our wingmen carry theirs too. It is an honor to serve with each and every one of you and we must ensure that we look out for one another, detect and correct conduct and behavior that may place ourselves or others at risk, be alert for signs of depression, suicide or other struggles in our wingmen and contribute to and enforce a climate of dignity and respect as well as intervene when any behaviors that hinder our ability to maximize our potential are present or suspected. Ensure we support one another both on and off duty... be a wingman always... never leave an Airman behind and we will not fail!

I close by asking again, who of us are good wingmen?

Master Sgt. Michael Holmes serves as first sergeant for the 51st Civil Engineer Squadron.

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