TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. — Wingman —it’s a title used over and over again throughout the Air Force.
After a little research, I found the Air Force has 27 posters depicting messages on the Wingman concept. Most communicate that an individual’s responsibility is to find a Wingman and keep them informed of their current life situation.
I have another theory — each of us should be proactive and ensure our teammates have one individual they feel has their best interests at heart, a person who will support them with zero judgment.
Characteristics of a Wingman:
1. Approachable — the ability to be open, a friendly face or “cheerleader”
2. Good listener — the ability to let people vent, express their feelings and know when listening is all the person needs
3. Honest — the ability to be a straight shooter; doesn’t give the individual what they want, but gives them what they need and knows the difference between the two
4. Time — willingness to give someone your time
5. Perceptive — ability to know when someone needs undivided attention because something is going on that may possibly be overwhelming or stressful
6. Intuitive — ability to know that an individual’s problems are beyond one’s expertise
7. Discernment — ability to know when to gently nudge or shove someone toward professional help
8. Gut feeling — ability to know when the needs of this person are beyond your capability and a higher authority/expert needs to be notified
9. Trustworthy — ability to be a confidant, words spoken are not to be shared
10. Supportive — ability to be available the ups and downs of their life
Rank is not the decider of who will be a Wingman. During my squadron command, something emotionally traumatic happened in my life. It truly knocked me to my knees for about two weeks. I prided myself on keeping my emotions in check and leading with consistency. I could not meet that standard.
I gave my leadership team low-level awareness about my situation (no specifics). I apologized if my emotions or actions were out of the ordinary, and I gave them permission to openly get me back to “reality” if necessary.
My superintendent, Master Sgt. Dan Wilson (now retired), truly was my Wingman during this difficult time. He was loyal and honest, and he kept me on task during that “cloudy” time. I did not choose him. I planned to suffer in silence to the best of my ability. Dan pretty much stormed in and said, “Let me help you.” I am forever grateful because I was in desperate need of a Wingman.
You have to ask yourself if you are the cliché Wingman or a REAL Wingman and ready to answer the call.
Just because you want to be a Wingman does not make you one. A Wingman should show the 10 characteristics listed above on a consistent basis in order for an individual to believe and rely on them. Be ready because there is someone out there who needs a Wingman to be a friend and confidant, who will help get them to the other side of a bad situation.
Please use the resources available to ensure you live your life to the best of your ability, emotionally, physically and mentally.