What is a Wingman?

  • Published
  • By Maj. Joann Kenneally
  • Commander, 97th Contracting Squadron
Airmen today are often confronted with phrases and terms that are intended to improve their lives through development of character, responsibility, and integrity. Sadly, many of these common words are so overused in everyday life that their meaning becomes diluted. For instance, take the title "Wingman." Every Airman serving today has undoubtedly been instructed to be a Wingman, but may not know what that really means. The term "wingman" originated with the flying community. The employment of Wingmen creates a proven strategic advantage and improves situational awareness. These attributes are very similar to the benefits of having a dependable Wingman in situations not related to air combat. The presence of a trustworthy ally to back you up can often be the deciding factor when working to meet a "suspense," accomplish the mission or even save a life.

In order to develop these ideas within our unit, the 97th Contracting Squadron incorporated several activities into "Wingman Day" this year. Our Wingman Day point of contact, Senior Airman Lee, developed a superb itinerary that did not include a single PowerPoint slide. The selected activities were intended to spread the wingman ideology among all squadron members, and not limiting it to just pairs or cliques.
We started the morning with a safety walk--identified the fire extinguishers, evacuation route, automated external defibrillator machine, and shelter-in-place locations. Then, our Airmen performed a safety skit.

Our next event was titled "Commonalities." This required squadron members to pair off randomly several times and find as many similarities between each other as possible within the allotted time. This straightforward game allowed squadron members to find out details about their coworkers that they may not have previously known, encouraging stronger relationships between each other. The next two activities were "Save an Egg" and "Newspaper Bridge". Both events required small teams to collectively design and create structures to protect an egg from an eight foot fall or support the weight of multiple reams of paper. These exercises focused on demonstrating the importance of resiliency - whether aimed at shielding a fragile egg from a fall, resisting buckling under the weight of paper or maintaining the mental, physical, social, and spiritual health of an individual.

The final event of the day was a memory maze in which squadron members took turns attempting to cross a threshold by guessing the correct path through a grid on the floor. This event required extreme concentration and focus in order to ensure participants did not repeat the mistakes of those ahead of them. This event demonstrated the importance of relying on others' assistance to overcome obstacles that would otherwise be impossible.

Overall, the activities we implemented during the winter Wingman Day were very successful and well received by all of our participants. The opportunities presented allowed our squadron to understand some of the fundamental aspects of becoming true Wingmen to each other, and strengthened their trust for one another. While we're looking forward to our next Wingman Day, every day in 97th Contracting Squadron is Wingman Day.