Commentary

August 10, 2012

Through Airmen’s eyes: Airman takes wingman concept to new level

by Airman 1st Class R. Alex Durbin
633rd Air Base Wing public affairs
commentary
Senior Airman Dara Alexander sits in front of the Langley Inn sign, July 31, 2012, at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va. While not on the job, Alexander is an avid singer, often called upon to sing the national anthem at various ceremonies. (U.S. Air Force photo / Airman 1st Class R. Alex Durbin)

JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. — (This feature is part of the “Through Airmen’s Eyes” series on AF.mil. These stories focus on a single Airman, highlighting their Air Force story.)

It was a typical night for Senior Airman Dara Alexander; working as a receptionist at the Langley Inns, Langley Air Force Base, Va., … until the phone rang.

Through the receiver, a first sergeant explained the situation to Alexander. Her brain went into overdrive as she heard his words. An Airman staying at the inn for a temporary duty assignment had suicidal thoughts, and he needed Alexander’s help.

Without a moment’s hesitation, she sprang into action and made the necessary calls to get the Airman help. Not long after, a team with a chaplain, first sergeants and security-forces patrolmen went to the Airman’s room, and were able to save his life.

All of this wouldn’t have been possible without Alexander’s quick-thinking, unhesitating response.

“It was one of the most emotional experiences of my life,” said Alexander, a 633rd Force Support Squadron services specialist. “It wasn’t just about the wingman concept, it was more than a concept. My first priority was to get him help.”

The wingman concept, along with the core values, are taught to be a way of life for every Airman, from a bald trainee in basic training, to the highest ranks.

No matter how seemingly unimportant it may be, Airmen must internalize these values, and implement them in everything they do, said Staff Sgt. Jamie Starkey, a 633rd FSS services specialist and Alexander’s supervisor. Hard work, dedication and being a good wingman, are the foundation on which every Airman must build their career — and lives.

Alexander joined the Air Force for a great deal of reasons, but most importantly, to be part of something bigger than herself.

“Joining the Air Force opened my eyes to the world,” Alexander said. “My time in the military has shown me all of the things I can accomplish.”

Alexander is immersed in the military life. Her husband (a U.S. Navy sailor) recently deployed, and will not return until next year. While separation is a factor many military members and their families deal with regularly, Alexander is a working mother of two young children and is eight months pregnant. The couple keeps in contact via email and phone conversations once a week. Even with the limited contact, Alexander said she gets a great amount of support from her husband. Though this is a hard situation, she looks at it in a positive light, and feels that she can handle it all.

“It’s hard to be away from each other, but I know I have my friends to help me through it,” she said. “I don’t just have my blood-related family behind me; I have my Air Force family to help me through it.”

Even with the full-time job of caring for two children while expecting a third, and a husband that is deployed, Alexander laughed and said the only hardship she faces is finding a good babysitter.

Some say children change a parent’s outlook on the world drastically. Alexander said that becoming a parent enlightened her and made her strive to be a role model for her children and her fellow Airmen.

“She genuinely cares about her fellow Airmen,” Starkey said. “She’s a great worker and a fantastic Airman.”

Even with the stress of balancing work, school and young children, Alexander says her positive attitude is the driving force in her life.

“She always has a positive attitude,” Starkey said. “Even when her plate is full, she always has a smile on her face — no matter what.”

It can be easy to let the problems and stresses from home and work mix. Although this may seem to initially relieve stress, Alexander said, she feels the best way to be effective is to keep the two worlds separate.

“It’s not a good idea to mix your home life with your work,” she said. “When I come to work, my main concern is getting the job done.”

Even if Airmen keep their professional and personal lives separate, they can become unsatisfied with the daily grind of their job. Alexander uses her positive attitude to combat the complacency that can trap some Airmen.

“Becoming jaded isn’t fair to those around you,” she said. “When you become complacent, you can’t do your job to the best of your ability and this leaves your co-workers picking up the slack.”

While not on the job, Alexander is an avid singer and is often called upon to sing the national anthem at various ceremonies around base. Her most fond memories are the times she sang the anthem at local 9/11 remembrance rallies.

“I love singing there every year,” she said with a smile. “It’s an amazing way to honor the friends and families of all those that lost their lives.”

Above all else, Alexander says she gains a great sense of accomplishment from helping people, even when she is not saving lives every day.

“I care about my job,” she said. “I don’t take anything for granted, and I wouldn’t change it.”




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