MCCHORD'S 446TH Reservists to take a moment to stress Wingman Day 2012

By Master Sgt. Jake Chappelle on February 28, 2012

"You can be my wingman anytime."

Most moviegoers know this cliché line uttered by Val Kilmer to Tom Cruise at the end of the 1986 film "Top Gun" by heart. But these classic words sum the Air Force's Wingman Day concept.

Wingman Day is mandatory for all Airmen every year. Air Force Reserve Command units will host their 2012 Wingman Day activities by mid-March.

"We must take care of each other," said Col Bruce Bowers, 446th Airlift Wing commander. "Our units are our family. Family members take care of each other. I constantly see this sense of family anytime there is a crisis. The recent power outage and snow event is evident of this desire to help our fellow Airmen."

What used to take more of a safety emphasis, the Wingman concept has evolved into a focus on life balance.

"The suicide rate at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and the Army as a whole, has been going through the roof," said Lt. Col. Kevin Welin, 446th AW chief of safety. "That has become the new buzz term, "wingman." What can you do? What can I do for the Reservists in our office? Can you see different personality changes? AFRC wants to make sure every (Reservist) refreshes their brains. What can we do to help somebody out who's in need of something, spiritually, mentally, physically and socially?"

These needs Welin mentioned are the four pillars of comprehensive fitness, which the new Wingman concept is based on.

"If you don't have the four solid pillars, you are not ready for a deployment," said Welin, who's been in the military for nearly 30 years. "If we don't have personnel ready for a deployment within 72 hours, we're not ready. You have to make sure those four pillars are always balanced to the best of your ability."

Wingman Day briefly halts normal UTA activities to revisit unit morale and wellness, said Welin. Small group discussions will provide strategies related to the four pillars, mission effectiveness and unit solidity. Basically, it's about team building, looking out for each other and maintaining the individual's physical and mental health.

The reason for the hands-on approach isn't just to get Reservists involved, but it's to make sure concept is effectively reinforced.

"If I gave a standard Power Point briefing, I basically turn everybody off in 10 minutes," explained Welin. "What good is it to give four hours of briefs when I've lost them in the first 10? Make it quick, snappy or however each squadron commander wants to tailor it."

According to Welin, these activities are vital because they stress awareness and attention to detail.

"If you have somebody who is contemplating suicide, you are not necessarily going to have any indicator," he said. "It's not going to be that the person left a note on my desk, saying they're alone and feeling very depressed. You are not going to get them saying, 'oh I went through the checklist and I have seven out of however many indicators.' You won't know. Forget the logic. That's the problem, the person is not in the right frame of mind," he added.

Welin provides easy informal solutions that can make the difference when it comes to awareness in the unit.

"Know your people," he said. "Go out to lunch with them once in a while. Build more trust and they'll open up to you. That's way the military is going. We need more morale building. We're so overloaded with our daily taskings, with our military and civilian careers and juggling family life, school, etc. that you have to keep bringing the wingman concept to the forefront. You have to make it a number-one priority," he added.

In addition to the colonel's advice, there also resources, which are also part of the Wingman Day briefings, that Reservists can make good use of wherever they are.

· Military One Source - - for military from all components and their families which provides local counseling, free books and resources on topics ranging from family to finances.
· Wingman Toolkit - - to learn how to intervene and save a life 365 days a year.
· National Resource Directory - - provides access to information on employment support, family support, education, benefits and compensation.

Welin brings home the point, that proper enforcement of the four pillars not only benefits the individual and unit cohesion, but it also helps accomplish the Reserve mission.

"As Reservists, we have to be ready to support any world-wide event. That's our job," said Welin. "If we're not ready, we're letting down the United States and our family."