TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. — Any member of the military community may at one time or another struggle with mental fitness issues. Service members and their dependents, as well as Tinker Air Force Base civilian employees, have a variety of prevention options open to them.
One way to direct them to services is by being an effective wingman.
“Building relationships with peers is key to the wingman culture,” said Mary Phillips, a licensed Clinical Social Worker in the Tinker AFB Family Advocacy Program.
Those relationships can grow in the workplace between supervisors and their Airmen, across ranks and between military and civilian workers.
Phillips said simply being aware of what is happening in a coworker’s life is a good start – such as knowing if they are married or have children.
“It can be tricky to find the balance between knowing about someone’s personal life and being professional at work,” Phillips said. “If you are familiar with their situation, and can be non-judgmental, you can better provide them with information about services they might need. For example, you can say ‘hey, why don’t we call Family Advocacy? I know they have resources available for you.”
The better individuals know those around them, the more likely they are to notice subtle changes of behavior that might indicate a problem.
“Couple relationship issues are a big risk factor for suicide, but help is available right here on base,” Phillips said.
Family Advocacy offers relationship, marriage and family counseling through the Family Advocacy Strength-Based Services Program, which is open to military and their spouses and to other TRICARE beneficiaries on a space-available basis.
Family Advocacy also offers classes focused on parenting, improving communication skills, managing anger and stress, self-care and more.
“An important part of being a good wingman is knowing about resources,” Phillips said.
Master Sgt. Elisha Peters, superintendent of the Equal Opportunity Office, said that day-to-day, being a wingman should simply look like being a good human being.
“As leaders, we’re never too far removed from showing people we care and we’re invested in the things that matters to them the most,” Peters said.
“Furthermore, being a wingman isn’t always associated with crisis management. It’s also about being proactive and taking preventative measures to mitigate or eradicate any maladaptive thoughts and behaviors.”
In addition to getting to know the people you work with on a daily basis, Peters said being a wingman is making sure members and their loved ones feel like a valuable part of the team.
It is also acknowledging and celebrating the little victories and special moments that add value to the workplace environment.
As a leader, Peters said she tries to reach out to people when she knows they have had significant emotional events, but also tries to check in with them on a regular basis just to build healthy relationships and let them know she cares.
“The wingman concept transcends beyond the military. It touches our communities, homes, cultures and families. It is a way to show care, compassion, understanding and empathetic curiosity towards others,” Peters said. “Being a wingman isn’t just a title or something you do on the weekends, being a wingman is a lifestyle.”
For more information on classes offered through Hill Air Force Base Family Advocacy, call 801-777-3497.