Support the formation: Be a wingman

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Eric Carney
  • 7th Airlift Sqaudron commander
What does it mean to be a Wingman? This is tough question and the answer can vary greatly depending on the situation. Yes, it may depend on the situation, but what if it mattered more about how much you were involved?

As a squadron commander in Air Mobility Command, I attend a video teleconference which covers in detail the events surrounding every fatality in the command. I have attended far too many! What is interesting to me is the number of chances Wingmen may have as fellow service members to save a person's life.

It is important to understand where the Wingman philosophy came from. In aviation, it is mutual support to get the mission done. The formation must succeed for the mission to succeed. It means you do whatever you have to do in order to be successful. This is the same requirement of the Wingman duties in our lives as Airmen.

Being a good Wingman does not mean you sit back waiting until the last minute to make a "Wingman save." Get involved sooner in the situation to try and prevent the save from being needed in the first place.

It may mean I refuse to ride my motorcycle with you because you do not obey the traffic laws. Maybe I do not rock climb with you because you take too many chances. Maybe I will not go to the bars with you because you cannot control your drinking.

As a Wingman, I want to avoid any situation which could risk "the formation" success. This should preclude the need for last second Wingman saves.

There is no position in the Air Force with too many people or a mission too little. It may only get worse due to the economic position of our country. This means every member we have in uniform is critical to make the team stronger.

As the wing commander says, "Everyone plays a role and every role matters."

Everyone must be ready and capable of getting the mission done. I think of it this way, do not do something that could place your life or another service member's life needlessly at risk. If you do, you are doing the enemy's job for him.

A story to illustrate my point: Not too long ago there was motor vehicle fatality which took the lives of a couple of young Airman from the command. The completely preventable event literally happened on the first night back from a deployment. The event in effect accomplished the enemy's mission without the enemy firing a single bullet, detonating an improvised explosive device or rocket attacking a single base.

What we ask of each other is enormous. What our country asks of our service members is humbling. Only those who serve know what a life of service is like. For these reasons, only we know how to support each other.

Frankly, we must support each other to get the mission done. Here is a little secret: Not everyone in a flying unit gets along with each other but as professionals we work together to get the mission done. The same rules apply in our personal lives; you do not have to be a friend of a person to be a good Wingman. Do not walk by a problem or an issue and think "That guy really could use a friend."

Odds are, if you are already asking yourself the question, you already know the answer. Get involved, support the formation, be a Wingman!