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Wingman Day - What tools are in your trunk?

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Many years ago while driving down a desolate country road on a moonless night I heard the familiar, unwelcome sound of a flat tire thumping along from the back corner of my old car. I found my way onto the dusty shoulder, popped open the trunk and rolled up my sleeves to change the tire.

It didn't take long to realize that my simple tire swap would not be simple at all.

The flashlight in my trunk had dead batteries.

My jack was missing because I had loaned it to a friend.

Worse still, my spare tire was just as flat as the tire I needed to change.

It's easy to see how my lack of preparation led to a long walk and an even longer night.

As I walked along kicking rocks, I wished I had shored up the tools that could have easily helped avoid such an inconvenient outcome. I wished I had taken the time to check the spare, change the flashlight batteries, and retrieve my jack long before I desperately needed them.

In the midst of the Air Force's Critical Days of Summer annual safety campaign, it would be easy to take this cautionary tale at face value as a clear example of what not to do as you prepare for a long drive.

On another level, however, this story serves to illustrate how our Air Force's Wingman Day concept works.

Wingman Day is an opportunity for all of us to check our tools and work on new ones so we have them when we need them most. By carving out dedicated time to hone our wingman skills, we avoid finding ourselves unprepared for challenges along the road . . . literally or figuratively.

Our 81st Communications Squadron team had a great time with our Wingman Day last week, thanks to our dedicated team of planners and resiliency trainer. We highlighted the four pillars of resilience: physical, spiritual, mental and social fitness. We participated in fun activities to help connect with our teammates and devoted time before the inevitable crises we will face to shore up those skills that we will lean on in tough times.

Our Wingman Day also helped reinforce the pride in our service and our nation that we hold dear. Gen. Mark Welsh, Air Force Chief of Staff, recently remarked, "I won't apologize - I love all of you, and I love what we do. Thanks for making me proud to wear this uniform."

His comments define what it is to be a wingman, and that same sentiment echoes through the 81st CS halls. Collectively, these feelings bolster our ability to overcome adversity as well.

Wingman Day is all about preparation. While we cannot expect to develop and refine all the critical skills and relationships we might need in a single day, we can certainly jumpstart the process. In fact, we have a personal and professional responsibility to do so. The Airman who waits to check his tools until a critical moment might find himself stranded.

Use Wingman Day as an opportunity to prepare yourself. Do you have a strategy you can employ to work through difficult times? If not, use the time to start one. Do you have those close friends - your brother and sister Airmen - you know you can count on? If not, use Wingman Day to start nurturing those relationships. Have you identified those blind spots in your own mental, physical, spiritual, and social well-being that might cause problems down the road? If so, make corrections and put these tools in your trunk before you face a crisis that requires them.

We will all go through tough times. We will all face difficult circumstances. And, dare I say, we will all face flat tires. Yet how we prepare to meet these challenges will define whether we rise or fall. Use Wingman Day to make sure the tools in your trunk are ready so that you can continue down the road to success in our Air Force and in life.