Commentary by Lt. Col. Stephen Finn
50th Civil Engineer Squadron commander
Friday is Wingman Day at Schriever AFB. At the Pentagon, where I just came from, I don’t think we ever did much for the occasion. We may have had some resiliency training and maybe a commander’s call, but I honestly believe I spent most of the time working staff packages. Now that I’m back at a base (happiness is the Pentagon in your rear view mirror!) and have the honor to command, I started thinking about what Wingman Day means to me and my unit. So, like any conscientious writer who is trying to get ideas for an article, I did an Internet search for “Wingman Day” to see what I could borrow from other, more accomplished authors. So what did I find out from my quality time spent with Google other than the score of the Eagles game, of course? What I found was quite interesting and completely contradictory.
The Internet is, for the most part, broken up into two camps. The first camp has the official articles from wing public affairs offices that quote leadership and speak to the virtues of Wingman Day. The very first link was for a 2011 Peterson article titled “Wingman Day strengthens relationships, increases well-being.” Peterson had a commander’s call that focused on the four pillars of Airmen Fitness — physical, social, mental and spiritual. Col. Chris Crawford, 21st Space Wing commander, was quoted as saying, “Wingman Day, very simply, is about us looking out for each other in all four of those aspects.” They also had a safety brief and then split up for team building activities including lunch, hiking and scavenger hunts.
The next camp come from the unofficial comments associated with articles found online. For example, a rather opinionated Airman DannyJ (Internet handle) said, “Just got the Winter 2011 Wingman Day Schedule from the Sqn. What a waste. Any good supervisor, section sup would cover this stuff on a more than semi-annual basis. Fairly surprised PT didn’t sneak in here somewhere.” That was certainly different than Colonel Crawford’s comments. Is that really how our Airmen feel about Wingman Day?
So what does Wingman Day mean to me and my unit? Is it a time for us to take a break from work and reflect on those things that we can do to promote resiliency for ourselves and our fellow Wingmen? Or is it a monumental waste of time that “any good supervisor” could cover in a “more than semi-annual basis”.
Zen references aside, I think the truth lies within each of us independently. Like most things in life, it is our attitude and how we approach something that determines what we get out of it.
I once had a boss who liked to say that attitude is crucial to success. It is the one thing you can pick when you wake up in the morning. You can’t pick the things that happen to you during the day, but you can pick how you choose to deal with those things.
That attitude can be applied to Wingman Day as well. If I approach Wingman Day with the wrong attitude, I won’t get anything out of it. If I approach it as an opportunity to add another tool to my tool belt, then it can be a successful day.
Wingman Day, after all, is just a single day, but we need to apply the concept every day. We are all important cogs in the wheel of national security. So I think I’ll probably side with Colonel Crawford (and AFSPC guidance) over “DannyJ” and reiterate to my squadron what Wingman Day means to me.
1. I care about what happens to my squadron. They are my family.
2. We can’t control operations tempo or what happens to us each day, but we can control how we deal with it.
3. We can control how we take care of ourselves.
3. We can also control how well we treat others.
4. This is not a program, but an approach to better equip us to handle stress. It’s about lifelong change. Expect it to take time.
5. By caring, committing, communicating, connecting and celebrating, you and your family members can beat self-defeating behaviors and feelings of hopelessness and despair and become healthier, happier and more resilient. When you purposely do these things every day, you give hope to others.
Happy Wingman Day. Engineers lead the way.