WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio — Throughout Air Force Materiel Command, wingman principles have taken root and are being expressed by the supportive, spontaneous and life-saving actions of our Airmen.
Within AFMC, the concept of wingman continues to grow, fueled by an emphasis on the importance of each individual Airman. As might be expected, the impact of wingman intervention also spills over into the community. The watchful eye of an AFMC wingman is not limited to the duty day. On or off duty, wingmen are alert, prepared to intervene on behalf of fellow Airmen or members of their community.
One example involved an Airman at dinner with his family in a restaurant. He noticed a man choking and turning blue. Armed with years of self-aid buddy care training and the wingman culture — which embraces a shared sense of responsibility for people — he seized control of the scene. As restaurant patrons stood around and watched, he took the man in his grasp and performed the Heimlich maneuver, expelling the object so the man could breathe. The restaurant staff thanked him for his quick actions. The manager, who witnessed the incident, also commented on the Airman’s quick, calm response. He stated, “The Air Force training served him well, as the public witnessed a home front soldier in action.”
Another occasion to intervene arose when a supervisor, flight chief and first sergeant came together to provide wingman support to an Airman. The supervisor received a call from one of his Airmen notifying him of the distressed individual’s impending return to his living quarters. He had spent the weekend with his family, who lived two hours away. He explained a relationship problem occurred during his visit and he had plans to end his life, upon his return.
After the supervisor had an extended conversation with the Airman, he was convinced to take no action until they could speak in person.
The two-hour trip gave the supervisor a limited time to act. He notified his flight chief to make him aware of the situation and they immediately phoned the First Sergeant. All three were at the Airman’s quarters before he arrived. They spoke with him and together escorted him to the emergency room. In this situation, a team intervened to provide “mental and social support,” which are two of the four pillars of Comprehensive Airmen Fitness.
The goal of wingman interventions is to create and foster a healthy workforce and culture that integrates and supports wellness, as well as a shared sense of responsibility for one another in keeping with our Air Force tradition of being a good wingman, in order to increase protective factors, engagement and productivity in the workplace.
The term “wingman” stems from a time-honored tradition within our Air Force flying community that essentially says a wingman will always stay with and protect the lead pilot, watching his/her back. It’s a promise, a pledge, a commitment between Airmen. Within AFMC, wingmen continually met this challenge.