Heritage, Resilience and Wingmanship

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. Patrick Higby
  • 81st Training Wing commander
The holidays are upon us:  an optimal time to celebrate with friends and family and acknowledge the blessings we are afforded as Americans.

From watching the news these days, however, one could conclude America is going down the drain; apparently, our nation is ideologically divided, our federal government is dysfunctional and bankrupt, we have turned our back on God, neighbors are persecuting one another, strange diseases abound, we are embroiled in an on-going global armed conflict, and our troops are inadequately resourced.

Sound familiar? 

Rewind to Christmas, 1777. The Revolutionary War is in full swing, part of a larger global struggle between the great powers of Europe. Our nation, conceived during the summer of the previous year, is on the verge of being aborted by Great Britain, aided by countless mercenaries. Additionally, many colonists are fierce loyalists, fighting for the King - prepared to slaughter and maim their rebellious neighbors.

The only real legitimacy America has is its Continental Army, wintering in Valley Forge. The troops are starving and freezing. Morale is in the toilet. Disease is rampant. General George Washington pleads for relief supplies from our new Congress, to no avail. 

Clearly, God has forsaken this new nation, after less than two years of existence. Yet we prevailed, and our Army survived. Thanks to the resilience of our forefathers, we emerged victorious and stand strong three centuries hence-the most powerful, stable, and benevolent nation in history.

Let's not forget our heritage during this holiday season, our nation's greatest asset, our military personnel standing on the shoulders of those who went before us. 

For our Air Force, it is our Airmen. 

Keesler's training mission presents a unique environment for technical/medical training and operational Airmen. While the groups are at different moments in their careers, the joys, traditions and stressors associated with the holiday season are something everyone experiences. Stressors abound for many, and warning signs of depression or unhappiness may not be noticeable.

This gives us an opportunity to practice resiliency in a way that is uniquely human - connecting with each other through being social, face-to-face. By simply reaching out to someone, whether it's through volunteering or a simple smile and "Happy Holidays!" or "Merry Christmas!" to a fellow wingman at the food court or Exchange, you're not only spreading the holiday spirit someone might be longing for, you're creating an outlet for them to pay the courtesy forward and help others.

Gestures like these make Keesler more than a military installation; it becomes a community. The Air Force core values, wingman concept and Comprehensive Airman Fitness program are all ideals we share. Wingmanship and resiliency, two important Air Force concepts, aren't just buzz words - they're philosophies we can use to help us develop a close-knit community.

This holiday season, be on the lookout for opportunities to be a wingman. You never know what someone may be coping with; their first holiday away from home, strained finances, holiday blues, or countless other life issues. Establish a social network with those around you by striking up a conversation, offering to help someone carry their bags to their car, or countless other small, selfless acts.

Through being social, we help our wingmen maintain emotional and spiritual resilience, which in turn helps Keesler's community bonds grow stronger. Strong bonds can make a place feel like home, and though we may be thousands of miles away from loved ones, having our Air Force family at our side makes the distance tolerable.

Imagine again what it must've been like at Valley Forge, during our darkest hour - yet I assure you, many soldiers kept the faith and wished each other a Merry Christmas and asked about each other's loved ones.

Enjoy the holidays, whether it's with family or your wingmen, and come back energized and motivated to complete our mission - training the world's greatest Airmen!