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Wingman Concept: helping each other anytime, any place

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Matthew Garrett
  • 187th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Sirens and loud bangs are my trigger; something falls on the floor with a loud crash and my heart starts racing. My eyes scan around the room while my hands instinctively start to reach for the M-16 assault rifle that I carried with me for six months. Then I remember my M-16 was turned in months ago and I am back home and no longer in Afghanistan.

Whether it is your first time deploying, or fourth, as in my case, everyone deals with the stress that comes from deployments differently. It's because of the stress and challenges of returning to family and work that the Air Force developed the wingman concept.

The wingman concept has its roots in aviation history. When in the air, the lead pilot's wingman would stay behind a few feet to look out for the lead and provide support if needed. This concept of looking after and supporting each other was adapted to apply to every Airman, whether in the air or on the ground, downrange or at home.

There are numerous ways to be a good wingman. If you spot someone who seems to be having a hard time readjusting you can start by asking them if they are okay. If that seems too direct for you, you can open the door by asking them to tell you about their experiences downrange. Sometimes it may be necessary to recommend they talk to a professional. If you're uncomfortable or unsure of how to approach someone you think needs help, you can always talk to mental health or the chaplain's office yourself for advice.

As recently deployed members return to work, we are all encouraged to keep an eye out for stressors and triggers. If you notice a team member having a difficult time readjusting to life at home, don't be afraid to step up and be their wingman.