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Being a good holiday leader, wingman

  • Published
  • By 6th Mission Support Group executive officer
  • 6th Mission Support Group executive officer
The holidays are a time for togetherness, sharing and reflection. Unlike last year, the wing is not gearing up for an Operational Readiness Inspection immediately following the new year, so more of our military brothers and sisters will be headed home for the holidays. Since this is normally a time when the operations tempo starts to slow down a little bit, it allows most of the offices around the base to implement a minimal manning schedule. This gives everyone a chance to rest, relax, and recharge their batteries before jumping into what will inevitably be another busy year at MacDill.

For those that choose to remain in the local area for the holidays, the question that eventually comes to mind is: What do I do with all of this extra time? Sure, you might smirk at this question, knowing exactly what you intend to do with your down time. But the question you should ask yourself instead is: What are my teammates doing with this extra time away from work? If you are struggling to answer this question, you might want to re-evaluate your role as a leader and most importantly--as a Wingman.

The term Wingman is used a lot because its importance cannot be stressed enough. A good Wingman is not just there for you when you need a ride home after a night on the town. Instead, a good Wingman should know their fellow Airmen well enough to know when something is wrong, and then take action to help them through the situation. Just because the holidays are upon us does not mean you get to take a break from being a Wingman. No, it means your role as a Wingman is more important than ever.

Everyone knows the holidays can be a stressful time of year and the reasons for staying in the local area vary from person to person. Loved ones are deployed. Plane tickets are too expensive to go home. It's also just a fact of life that not everyone can be on leave at the same time. This is because we still have a mission to accomplish at MacDill and teammates to support downrange. However, just because someone is staying in the local area, does not mean they should be alone for the holidays.

Although it usually provides a laugh to have a lieutenant speak from "experience," I risk doing so because this subject is near and dear to my heart. Being prior enlisted, I can relate to what it feels like to live in the dorms and continue to work through the holidays. As a brand new airman first class, I was sent to Andersen AFB in Guam. For those familiar with Guam, you can imagine the high cost of airline tickets. For this reason, most people choose not to come back to the Continental United States for the holidays. Given the cost of airline tickets, I was content with staying in my dorm room the whole time playing Madden...'98. I didn't own a car, so dinner at the dining facility was also on the agenda. But that plan changed when one of the 'tech' sergeants in another flight told me (he did not ask) that I was going to spend Christmas with his family. I resisted at first, because it seemed like a weird situation to spend Christmas with a bunch of people I barely knew, but I finally relented. I am forever thankful that I did.

Thanks to him, I spent that first Christmas away from home as part of a family, my new military (Air Force) family. I was provided with the opportunity to eat a home-cooked meal and hang out with his family instead of sitting back in my dorm room with just my thoughts and Playstation. He accepted the responsibility of being a Wingman and didn't take no for an answer.

So as you close up shop this holiday season, ask around to see what everyone has planned and do not stop asking until you have a legitimate answer. And if someone plans on being alone, invite them in to your home and don't take no for an answer. They won't be sorry for it and I guarantee they will remember the gesture for the rest of their lives.