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What happened to the wingman?

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. David Furno
  • 90th Missile Wing Legal Office superintendent
As the 90th Missile Wing Legal Office superintendent, I see a lot of the military justice actions that occur on the base. As I write this, the base has had seven Airmen charged with driving under the influence, 29 Airmen charged with Article 15s and eight courts-martial cases since the start of 2012. In case you don't know, those numbers are higher than typical for this base. So, the question must be asked, what ever happened to the wingman?

These cases do not only involve enlisted Airmen, but NCOs and officers as well. The Air Force allows only the best to enlist, or commission, so these people are not dumb; they are just making poor decisions. All of them know the difference between right and wrong. In the vast majority of these cases, the people who got in trouble in these incidents were not alone. There was another Air Force member around or involved in the incident. That means two Air Force members were making poor decisions.

There was a time long ago when a supervisor would give a troop a good old "Alpha-Charlie" -- ask your supervisor if you don't know what this is -- at the mere thought of a troop going down the wrong path. In today's Air Force, I do not believe this happens as much anymore. The supervisor's job is not to be the troop's friend. It is to get the job done and to guide Airmen into correct decisions.

Although the supervisor can't be there all of the time, he or she should instill a sense of pride in the troop so the troop does not want to disappoint him or her, or the unit. By doing so, the supervisor is being a good wingman. When off duty, the troop is most likely hanging out with other military members. This is where the wingman concept is most critical.

Like it was stated earlier, poor decisions are usually not made alone. If someone has had too much to drink, offer to drive them home or take their keys. Sure they may be mad at you then, but I guarantee they will thank you the next day. Saying "no" or telling someone what they want to do is wrong, may not be the popular thing to do, nor easy, but I would bet anything it is the correct choice. I would guarantee the people involved in the incidents above would tell you the same thing. They have all lost money and rank. Some of them have been confined and have lost the privilege of remaining in the Air Force.

Doing the right thing as a wingman may not be the popular choice, but it is the right choice ... always.