Chaplain’s thoughts … Unleash the power of Wingman

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Chaplain (Capt.) Derrick Elliott
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Have you ever said a specific word or repeated a word so often that you’ve forgotten its meaning? Each of us have experienced this phenomenon at least once in our life time. This cognitive recognition of a word is temporarily lost. As time progresses, we cannot remember its meaning. Psychologist Leon Jakobovits James, PhD., named this incident “sematic satiation.”

As we enter into the military, we hear a lot of buzzwords or catch phrases intended to aid us in memorizing a task or concept. After some time, these buzzwords lose their meaning and we just reiterate them because that’s the word most spoken. These words should inspire us to become successful in our career and life; however, they tend to get lost in the lexicon.

In recent months, resilience has been renewed in our vocabulary. As we venture through this pandemic and unrest in this nation, we are being told to be resilient. When asked about what is resilience, one might come up with different meanings. However, the American Psychological Association defines resilience as the ability to adapt well to adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even significant sources of stress. Resilience is not for just an individual, but resilience is for whole communities. In times like these, we need to be reminded of being resilient and how to be a wingman. Our human resilience to adversity can exhibit a richness, complexity and nuance as we understand our human nature for social transformation.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Christian theologian who had shown resilience as a prisoner during World War II. In his Letters and Papers from Prison, he noted, “In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be rich without such gratitude. It is so easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements compared with what we owe to the help of others.

My fellow Airmen, when we are living through utter grief and sadness, we must believe that WE can figure out a way for things to change. Resilience is hope in action. Somehow, you find the guts to get up from a tear-soaked pillow and keep living and continuing to be a part of the solution- staying out of the despair and trying to teach others how to do the same. You are keenly aware that the military, at times, can be exhausting and not just for you but also for members outside the military. We must be willing to have internal and external conversations with each other ensuring that all Airmen and personnel cultivate a healthy relationship to improve themselves, their loved ones and friends. We must also ensure the mission of the Air Force is preserved. This is not an easy task to sojourn, but when we share the feelings of another, and have compassion, we have empathy.

As Lt. Col. Lawrence O. Roche stated, “A good wingman reminds his or her buddies about a meeting starting in five minutes. It means taking care of each other so the team can take care of the mission. It means protecting each other’s flank and building and keeping our trust in one another.”

My faith teaches me to be an empathic wingman; I need to show love and the importance of love and putting it into practice in everything I do. The love that has no fear; it does not worry; love keeps no records of wrongs; never fails. We want to ensure that our wingmen have a safe and supportive environment to work in – one that is truly who we are when we say “I am an American Airman. Wingman, Leader. Warrior. I will never leave an Airman behind, I will never falter, and I will not fail.” Let us inspire resiliency across our Air Force community and unleash the power of being a wingman.

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