It finally dipped below 90 degrees recently and many of us know what that means — fall is upon us in the Valley, and the holidays and even cooler temperatures are just around the corner. The next few months will bring parties, family visits, vacations, food, and bowl games.
But not everyone has a full social calendar. Airmen straight from technical school and overseas returnees, for example, may not receive multiple invitations for holiday functions.
Years ago, I enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner with a few friends at a fast food restaurant. The hamburgers didn’t taste quite like turkey, the potatoes were of the French fried variety and the ambience was nonexistent. Later that evening I spoke with my parents. My family was expectedly horrified, and the situation was mildly depressing, but misery at least had company that night.
But what about the Airman who doesn’t know anyone well enough to make a pizza run with on an extended holiday weekend or missed the invite for Thanksgiving dinner at the chief’s house? The Airman’s creed says, “I will never leave an Airman behind.” The holidays present a perfect opportunity for us to apply this vitally important concept.
Mass email and good intentions cannot accomplish this mission. Words alone will not keep our Airmen from enjoying the holidays with a drive-thru burrito perched alone in front of their Xbox. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, success hinges on meaningful communication and first-line supervisor engagement.
First-line supervisors are leaders in the perfect position to ensure we leave no Airman behind. Now is the time to get into the specifics of the weekend and holiday plans; the gritty details of the “who, what, where, why, how and when.” A vague answer to any of the preceding questions should drive a more in-depth conversation. Follow through on the back-end as well. Anybody can ask “how was your weekend?” But a skilled first-line supervisor inquires on the specifics. Consider opening your home for dinner or to watch a game. Invite early and often, and don’t readily accept “no thank you” for answer. If you are a first-line supervisor and are leaving town or otherwise unavailable, ensure you hand your responsibilities off to someone you trust. Safety briefs take on an even greater importance as well. Showing somebody how to check tire pressure on a car is arguably more effective than just advising them to do so. This extra five minutes demonstrates caring and commitment, and is time well spent.
The next few weeks can be stressful as well. Amidst the festivities and excitement, be cognizant of subtle changes in the behavior or habits of fellow Airmen. We lean heavily upon first-line supervisors to recognize and help manage these stressors, but often it is one’s own peer group that is best able to identify and provide appropriate support.
For Airmen not going home for the holidays, the 56th Force Support Squadron offers many opportunities for great camaraderie, food and fun this time of year. Ultimately, no one will force you to participate in squadron or wing functions. Take some personal initiative, take some risks, and meet some new people. Take your supervisor up on an offer to spend a few hours over at his house. Get involved, and have fun.