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What does it mean to be a good a wingman?

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- As I've gone through my career and most recently my last few years in Air Education and Training Command, I often ask our Airmen what it means to be a good wingman. I typically get the same few answers in response – take care of each other, hold people accountable, don't leave anyone behind – they’re all good answers, but I think there's a much deeper foundation that must be built in order to actually succeed at any of the aforementioned responses.

To be a good wingman, you have get to know your people. You have to care, and you have to be invested. Being a good wingman isn't a cliché term we use in the Air Force, it defines who we are as Airmen and it's sacred to what makes us brothers and sisters in arms. If we don't invest ourselves in getting to know our wingmen, then how will we truly recognize when they are struggling and need help?

Throughout the holiday season and beyond, my challenge to each and every Airman is to take the time to get know your wingmen.

Carve out time in your busy schedule and commit yourself to getting to know who your wingman is as an individual. What are their likes and dislikes? Are they married? Do they have kids? What was life like where they grew up? Is there anything going on in their life that causes them stress? Open dialog is important and it’s what leadership is all about, asking the difficult questions when it matters most.

I believe if we all took the time to truly get to know our Airmen, our wingmen, then we would all be much more prepared to recognize when one of our own is struggling. The better we know our people, the sooner we can offer help and support to those that need it.

Our business is family business. When you look at your fellow Airmen I hope you see a member of your family. Get to know them, invest yourself in their success and watch them soar!