Being a Good Wingman

Many have heard the phrase of being a good wingman, but does anyone truly know the meaning. According to Webster’s Dictionary, the definition of wingman is “a pilot or airplane that flies behind and outside the leader of a group of airplanes in order to provide support or protection”. Those of us who have been around the Air Force for many years understand what it means to be a good wingman. It is being there for someone who needs someone to talk to. It could be being a designated driver when a group goes out on the town. It could be recognizing signs in someone who is hurting inside. Being a good wingman could be someone who is safety oriented and doesn’t allow someone to be overly risky in what they do. Being a good wingman could save a life and if you think about the definition, it means keeping someone alive to fly another mission.

Too often we are taught there are certain signs of someone in distress. I believe this is not necessarily true. There is no cookie cutter approach when it comes to someone who may need help. Not all people deal with stressful situations in the same way. People may not exhibit those well-defined characteristics we are taught to look for in individuals. How many times have we seen a news reporter interviewing someone after a tragic event and the neighbors say that wasn’t characteristic of the person who acts out in a violent way? We hear it all the time, because some don’t show those behaviors typically defined as warning signs.

Why am I writing this article about being a good wingman? I just attended the funeral of one of our Oasis family members who took his life, Mike Clark who supported our HBQ customer. Mike was a thirty year veteran of the United States Air Force and he achieved the highest grade of an enlisted member of the Air Force, Chief Master Sargent. He was a member of our test community at Peterson AFB. Mike was a good family man and a great person who showed all the signs of happy-go-lucky person amongst his fellow teammates. I heard many stories about him and how he made time for anyone who needed it and would go the extra mile to help people succeed. He was hurting inside, but never let it show. Mike was a great person, well respected and admired; may he rest in peace.

We all need to be good wingman and do our part. Just like they say with all the unrest in our world today, “If you see something say something”. As supervisors and fellow members of the Oasis family, we all need to do our part in watching out for each other. We need to fly beside or behind one another to ensure we support and protect our family. Sometimes we can do everything we can to be a good wingman and still a tragic event occurs. However, please don’t be afraid to get involved and ask how people are doing. Look for some of the predictable signs of someone going through some tough times and pay attention. You never know when you could make a difference and keep someone in the game.