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News > Commentary - Make Wingman Day every day
Make Wingman Day every day

Posted 2/23/2011   Updated 2/23/2011 Email story   Print story


Commentary by Col. Mike Hornitschek
375th Air Mobility Wing commander

2/23/2011 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill.  -- As Chief Candler and I walked through the various organizations last week during the formal portions of our Wingman Day, it was obvious to me that there were lots of positive interactions with each other as we focused on our physical health and mental and emotional well-being. I had the chance to sit in on some very powerful small group discussions, watch a Gp/CC briefing, and hit a clay pigeon with a 12 gauge as part of a team-building event--all good Wingman stuff.

The day was a huge success thanks to the facilitators and team members who took the time to ensure we had plenty of opportunities to discuss how we can build more resilient Airmen. Ever since the Comprehensive Airman Fitness philosophy was released in July 2010, one of the top goals in shaping the culture has been to build more resiliency among our Airmen.

One of the most important aspects of resiliency is our mental fitness. Mental fitness is about approaching life's challenges in a positive way by demonstrating self control, stamina and good character with choices and actions as well as seeking help and offering help when required or needed.

Being a Wingman might mean asking awkward questions of a buddy, or stranger, who's acting overstressed. It might mean a conversation with a superior or outside resource agency. Doing the right thing--erring on the side of caution--can be a risky proposition, and one that takes courage to do.

Some people may have issues with reporting to the mental health professionals for fear that it means a security clearance can be taken away temporarily or that we might not be able to perform our primary duties for a period of time. Many of us might be reluctant to take that step, but as commanders and supervisors--and Wingmen--we should do everything we can to encourage our colleague, co-worker or subordinate make the necessary short term fixes for the long term solution.

Getting help early gets the problem under control before there are negative outcomes. No one Airman is ever alone, and that's why we say we're 'committed to caring.'

Good mental fitness is also about taking care of the body. It's a known fact that body and mind are interconnected and when we exercise and eat right, we just feel better. Whether we fit in our workouts before work, at lunch or after the duty day, exercise is just as important to our overall mental acumen as is fueling our bodies through proper nutrition each day.

Physical fitness isn't just about passing a PT test. It's about having a lifestyle that provides a foundation for being able to meet the mental and physical challenges of military life. We have a superb team of experts right here at Scott who are helping our Airmen get fit and stay fit ... and who offer a wide variety of activities from intramural sports to triathlons and fun runs.

For the military member, physical fitness is a condition of employment, but I encourage ... and see many great examples ... of civilians who heed the clarion call for wellness and do all that they can to be mentally and physically fit as well. We all need to focus on these areas and together we are inspiring each other to achieve our personal best.

Not only do we have internal support, but we receive a wealth of support from our wonderful community partners as well. Whether they're providing goodies for our young Airmen or donating gently used furniture for the Airman's Attic or sponsoring our dorms and wounded warriors, every effort directly translates to helping us to develop resilient Airmen. Through community support our Airmen know their hard work and sacrifice is appreciated and that their families will always be taken care of and supported when our mission demands our full attention.

While we have official Wingman Days set aside periodically, there's no reason why we can't have Wingman Day every day! As we learn about the tools and continue to build the culture of caring, we can ensure our Airmen are resilient to meet and overcome the challenges of the mission to Enable Combat Power for our nation.

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