McCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kansas — We hear a lot of buzzwords in the Air Force today. Some of the most recent and heavily used are wingman and resiliency.
To me the real question is what a wingman is, and how to build a more resilient force.
I consider the Air Force my family, and each and every member of the Air Force is my family member (even crazy Uncle Bob). You don’t become a good wingman or a resilient Airman by attending briefings or discussing it at commander’s calls.
It is a mindset, and a way of life. This was brought home for me a few months ago at a briefing I attended.
While attending the Air Force First Sergeant Academy last fall, one of our guest speakers, a command chief master sergeant, told a story of his experience with the family members of his Airmen.
His name I can’t remember, but his message I won’t forget. He told a story about meeting the parents of one of his Airmen at an event and described how the father seemed very displeased throughout their conversation.
Later, the chief asked the gentleman for a word in private. The father, not unexpectedly, was concerned for his son’s well-being. He wondered who would take care of his son while he trained across the country, away from his family, or while he completed his upcoming deployment. Who would take care of his daughter-in-law and new grandson while his son was gone?
The chief’s response to the worried father was simple.
“Sir, I got it.”
This story, while simple, was profound. At that moment, I was reminded that I, too, am responsible for the health, morale, welfare and well-being of the sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, husbands and wives of people I most likely will never meet.
What exactly would their expectations be? I know “I got it,” but what exactly do I got?
Mothers, Fathers, Husbands, Wives, Sisters, and Brothers:
You gave us your loved ones to serve in our beloved Air Force, and for that, I thank you. They now proudly carry two family names on their uniform, your name over their right pocket and our name over their left. You have loved and supported them, taken care of their needs and prepared them to serve with the best of the best.
Now it is my turn … and I got it.
What I want you to know and understand is that they will be trained and equipped to be a part of the best Air Force in the world. We will do our best to prepare them for whatever may come their way. If they are not prepared for what life throws at them, we will work through it together.
If their own families have needs, I got it. These are not just your sons, daughters-in-law, or grandbabies; they are a part of our family, too.
They will spend a part of their life in our Air Force. If they need a hand up, a shoulder to cry on, a hug, a smile, a kind word, a firm word, or a boot in the butt during this time, I got it.
If they are not cut out for life in our Air Force, they will be treated with dignity and respect. I got it.
If we have to deploy them around the world to awful places to fight our nation’s wars, I got it.
While they are away and unable to tend to their family’s day-to-day needs, I got it.
When they return and need help reintegrating into life at home, I got it.
If they return different than they were when they left us, I got it.
If the world around them starts to drag them down, I got it.
If the unthinkable happens, and they don’t return, I got YOU. We got you! You are now, and always will be, a part of our family, the Air Force Family.
My first question for each and every Airman in our force today is simple: do you “got it?”
I don’t mean just when it is going to show up on a slide, or be briefed to the boss, but day in and day out good times and bad. I’m not talking about just your friends, or your favorite Airmen. Do you got it for the Airman who may be struggling, or the Airman who may have strayed from the path and is causing you all that extra work? Do you “got it” for crazy Uncle Bob?
My second question is who’s got you? If you can’t answer that question, you need to reach out to someone. We all need a Wingman. We all need someone to watch our backs, to keep us going, to keep us out of trouble or just to be there. wingman, leader, warrior: They are more than just buzzwords.