Tag Archives: Wingman

What’s your story? Aug. 6, 2012

 

Suicide affects more than one

By Col. Jonathan Sutherland
50th Network Operations Group

I remember the phone call three years ago like it happened an hour ago. My sister called to tell me our dad had died unexpectedly in his sleep. Among the many emotions I encountered shortly thereafter, I distinctly remember reflecting on my dad’s Air Force service as I watched his flag being folded by sharp Air Force honor guard members.

My dad only served four years in the Air Force, but my childhood was filled with stories about his service and the people with whom he served. He rarely spoke of what he did, but focused more on his supervisors, peers and the few subordinates he had. He still knew them by name, where they were from and had a story or two to tell about each of them. After more than 20 years out of the Air Force, he still kept in touch with those Airmen. Frankly, his stories and my excitement about wanting to be part of an organization like that were the main reasons I enlisted in the Air Force a few months after graduating from high school.

I came in the Air Force during an era before computers and cell phones. I knew everyone in the office and nearly everything about them. It was natural. To get something done, you walked to their desk or developed a relationship with them over the phone. I knew just by the sound of their voice or the way they walked into the office what kind of day they were having. I didn’t have to rely on them to post their status on Facebook to understand how they were feeling. Of course, Facebook was still 20 years away.

In today’s digital age, times have certainly changed. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a cyber guy and a huge proponent of technology, so I’m excited to see where we’re headed into the future. However, the one area that we’ve sacrificed is personal relationships and the ability to “read” our fellow Airmen. How many times have you sent an e-mail or text to the Airman sitting in your own office? How well do you know your co-workers, your boss and your subordinates? Do you know where they’re from? Do you know what they do off-duty?

As a young squadron commander in England, I had to pick up the pieces of a devastated unit after a bright, young senior airman took her own life. She was popular, outgoing and an impressive Airman, having won the squadron Airman of the quarter award earlier that year. After her death, we learned how much stress she had in her life and how many signs were out there if people would have just known her better. No one wanted to ask because they didn’t want to “get into her business.” Of course after her death, they all wished they would have.

Tragically, our Air Force is barreling down a path to set a record for suicides in 2012. The previous record for suicides was set in 2010 when 99 fellow Airmen took their own lives. We are well on our way to smash that record this year. In most of these cases, the signs were there, but no one was watching for them. How many of our wingmen are deployed, have moved or worked a different shift schedule? If wingmen aren’t watching out for each other, who is? If you don’t know much about your co-workers, how will you recognize abnormal behavior from normal? It’s incumbent upon each one of us to get to know our fellow Airmen. Step out from behind your desk, walk to the next desk and just ask a few questions about their life. Sure, it might be a little invasive, but it also may reveal the struggles they’re facing.

Twenty-five years from now, when you’re talking to your kids and grandkids about your Air Force life, what will you tell them? Let’s hope you go overboard and tell them about each person you worked with, how they were unique and how much you still stay in touch with them. Everyone has a story to tell. let’s hope you get out from behind your computer to hear them all. I look forward to hearing yours too.

Image: Suicide is often spoken about as if one person is affected, but only the individuals left behind truly understand the full impact of that decision. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Airman 1st Class Joshua Green)

Wingmen enable Airman’s incredible recovery

 

Senior Airman Jayson Phillips works with his physical trainer
By Chief Master Sgt. M. Shane Flint
543rd ISR Group

Resiliency, wingman, core values — these are terms we use every day to describe and define us as Airmen. Every day, I come to work and see examples of Airmen who are resilient, Airmen who take care of their fellow Airmen, Airmen who live and operate by our core values.

On Sept. 19, 2011, four Airmen from the 543rd Intelligence, Reconnaissance and Surveillance Group here took action and were perfect examples of why we use the words above in describing and defining “Airman.” Those actions likely saved the life of a fellow Airman.

September 18 was a regular day for Senior Airman Jayson Phillips. He ran 14 miles then made his weekly call to his younger brother in Dallas to rub in how fast his run time was. After his call, it was time to prepare for the work week and get some quality sleep.

The following day began normally for one of Phillips’ supervisors, Tech. Sgt. Erica Vasquez, until one of her subordinates, Staff Sgt. Tyler George, relayed that Phillips had not shown up for work. Vasquez and George knew it was not at all like Phillips to be late.

As soon as Senior Airman John Hill heard Phillips was late, he knew something was wrong. It wasn’t like his best friend not to call. When they could not make contact by phone, Hill immediately volunteered to go to Phillips’ home with George. When George and Hill arrived at the apartment they found Phillips’ vehicle parked in front.

He should be home.

They started knocking on the door, but there was no response. Now, fearing the worst for their friend and wingman, these Airmen rushed to the apartment manager’s office and convinced him to open the door for them. Once inside, their fears were confirmed: Phillips lay collapsed on his bed, initially unresponsive to their pleas.

George and Hill immediately put their self-aid and buddy-care training to the test. Once they established Phillips was breathing, they fought to get him conscious and called 911. By the time responding medical professionals were on the scene, they had Phillips semi-conscious. En route to the hospital, George assisted in keeping Phillips responsive while Hill phoned Vasquez and squadron leaders with reports.

Once at the hospital, medical professionals stabilized Phillips, getting him into the intensive care unit. George and Hill were still engaged. Because of his close friendship, Hill contacted Phillips’ family, whom he knew, with the news. He kept in constant touch with them and didn’t leave his friend’s side as the Phillips family drove the few hours from their home to San Antonio. Once the family arrived, George, Hill and squadron and site leaders maintained a 24-hour presence with the Phillips family to ensure they had access to housing, base facilities and a steady flow of home-cooked meals.

Through testing, doctors concluded this young healthy Airman had suffered a severe stroke.

I visited Phillips and his family in the midst of the initial turmoil. When Col. David Foglesong, 543d ISR Group commander, and I arrived, Hill was right there with the Phillips family offering his support — a solid wingman.

What I had not prepared myself for was seeing Phillips’ condition. He was now a 25-year-old who could barely move his hands, could not talk, with one side of his body paralyzed from the stroke.

He was conscious for only a minute or two while we were in the room. My heart sank to see such a vibrant, bright, American Airman stricken so severely. I just hoped that he could recover enough to get part of his functionality back. As he struggled just to remain awake that day, I didn’t take into consideration Phillips’ resiliency and his ability and determination to come back to full strength.

Three weeks went by. I next saw a different Phillips. As before, I wasn’t prepared for what I would see. He sat upright, talking and doing exercises to strengthen his arms. He was slowly moving his formerly paralyzed side.

A month after that, he was walking. Doctors were amazed at his recovery.

On my next visit, he had moved to the nearby Fisher House. To my amazement, he was walking with a cane and his speech was completely back. I told him, “We are going on a run soon.”

Without blinking an eye Phillips replied, “I will be running by spring.”

Phillips continued an amazing recovery. The staff of the treatment facility who helped with his initial recovery were so impressed with his dedication and determination they recognized him with their second annual Resilient Warrior Award. As I sat at the ceremony, I fought tears when he walked to receive his award, less than five months after suffering a severe stroke.

After the ceremony, I shook Phillips’ hand. Standing beside him were George, Hill and Vasquez, his wingmen. The Airmen who were not only most likely responsible for saving his life, but also the Airman who stayed there for Phillips and his family through his recovery. They weren’t there because they had to be. They were there for this resilient Airman because of their commitment to their core values. They made me proud of — and to be — an American Airman.

One million thank yous for one million fans

Airmen hugs his 20 month old daughter before deployment
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Airman 1st Class Krystal Tomlin
Air Force Public Affairs Agency

The U.S. Air Force Facebook page recently reached one million likes. We, here at the Air Force Public Affairs Agency, are really excited about reaching this milestone. We’ve been counting down for weeks.

Why is this number so important to us? To tell you the truth, there isn’t much difference between 999,999 and 1,000,000. We aren’t celebrating our millionth fan — we’re celebrating our first fan, our hundredth fan, our millionth fan and everyone in between.

U.S. Airman participates in women's shura in Afghanistan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As an Air Force public affairs specialist, my job is to tell the Air Force story. I want to help every U.S. citizen understand our mission so they can make an educated decision about supporting us. I write stories about the wonderful things my fellow Airmen are doing. These stories help to put a face with the uniform that sacrifices for freedom. These stories also help servicemembers’ families understand the important work that takes their loved ones away from them. I tell the good, the bad and the ugly. I’ll keep telling the Air Force story, because I believe in it.

I believe the Air Force plays a vital role in stifling global threats to freedom and human rights. I have no doubt most people in the Air Force are here to serve the public in an effort to make their communities and the world a better place. I believe the rebuilding efforts and the humanitarian missions we take part in are a reflection of those efforts.

Yokota Airmen deliver school supplies to Indonesian school

This is why one million fans is worth celebrating. It’s one million people who can see the Air Force through my eyes. One million people who are learning about the Airmen who attended a women’s shura in Afghanistan or provided school supplies for kids in Indonesia. More people will understand the resilient military kids and spouses who sacrifice in support of the men and women who love America and freedom so much they took an oath to defend the Constitution at all costs.

Thank you a million times. Thank each and every one of you for supporting my fellow Airmen every day. Thank you for telling our stories to your friends and family. Thank you for trusting us with your freedom.

Photo 1: U.S. Air Force Capt. James Salazar hugs his 20-month-old daughter, Elizabeth, prior to the 15th Airlift Squadron’s departure Aug. 27, 2008 at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C. Captain Tarkowski is assigned to the 15th AS. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Timothy Taylor)

Photo 2: Indonesian schoolchildren receive school supplies and sports equipment from Airmen during a goodwill visit to an elementary school in Binguang district, Indonesia, as part of Cope West 11. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Raymond Geoffroy)

Photo 3: First Lt. Emily Chilson interacts with the girls April 25, 2011, in Urgun, Afghanistan, during the first women’s shura. Lieutenant Chilson is the Paktika Provincial Reconstruction Team public affairs officer and female engagement team member. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Stacia Zachary)

Are you a servant-leader?

By Chief Master Sgt. Gregory Warren
62nd Airlift Wing command chief

Chief Master Sergeant Gregory WarrenThe phrase “servant leader” was brought into the mainstream back in 1970 in an essay published by Mr. Robert Greenleaf. In this writing, he defines a servant-leader as someone who “is a servant first.” Servant leadership isn’t about positions and titles. Instead, it is an attitude that says people and relationships are important, valuable and essential to mission success.

What does it mean to me? It’s very simple. Putting the needs of your fellow Airmen first. Is this convenient? No. Is it rewarding? Absolutely! There is nothing more satisfying than to see someone you’ve worked with succeed. That is what personally drives me in the capacity I serve.

We often talk about getting to know one another and being good Wingmen to each other. For those in supervisory positions, we emphasize getting eyeball-to-eyeball with your Airmen, daily if possible, to identify when something might not be quite right with them.

For the servant-leader this isn’t a chore, it is an imperative embedded in their DNA; they genuinely care about others and know that mission success absolutely depends on individual successes of those around them.

In my opinion, some great examples of servant-leaders throughout history may be Jesus, Ghandi, Mother Theresa and Martin Luther King Jr. These leaders absolutely put the needs of others before their own and, because of it, are considered some of the greatest, most beloved leaders to have ever lived.

An unknown author once said, “A good leader inspires people to have confidence in the leader, a great leader inspires people to have confidence in themselves.”

John C. Maxwell, famous leadership mentor and pastor said this, “True leadership must be for the benefit of the followers, not to enrich the leader.”

These two quotes are at the heart of servant-leadership and define your leaders here on McChord Field.

In closing, I’ll say that leadership to me isn’t about the number of stripes on your sleeve or the shape or color of the rank on your shoulders; it is about serving others. No matter what capacity you serve in. I believe that success isn’t defined by how much you personally achieve but on how much those you influence achieve. Does this define you as a leader?

Photo: Chief Master Sgt. Gregory Warren is the 62nd Airlift Wing command chief at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. (U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)

Re-blued

 By Senior Airman Ulla Stromberg
99th Inpatient Operations Squadron aerospace medical technician

Being from Manhattan, Kan., an individual isn’t exposed to too terribly much. Cuisine was only as worldly as the Chinese/American buffet and entertainment rested in a dive bar or bowling alley. The one thing about this community, however, was the people. Being home to the students of Kansas State University and a great many of our soldiers from Fort Riley, the majority of the population’s faces were constantly changing. Human interaction and the life experiences heard from those soldiers and students broadened our worldly horizons.

Senior Airman StrombergAs I grew older, I was more informed and cognizant of the purpose of the military member. I loved hearing their stories and began to notice how those realities behind the tale developed their admirable character. I would watch those uniformed men and women at the local grocery store who always maintained an unwavering sense of purpose and seemed slightly more considerate of their loved ones who were with them. My eyes were opened when I realized this consideration came from the thought that the moment I had observed may have been due to this family seeing each other for one of the first or last times in the midst of a seemingly endless deployment season. I admired their sacrifice, their selflessness. To me, the uniform stood for a great many things. I hadn’t the foggiest idea what in the world occupational badges or rank insignias stood for. I just knew as an outsider looking in that the uniform stood for sacrifice. Sacrifice brought discipline and discipline brought pride and purpose. I enlisted in the United States Air Force at the earliest opportunity.

Because we are human, it is easy to fall into routine, to become complacent. However, one must always remember how they felt upon graduation from basic military training (BMT) when they received their Airman’s Coin. BMT pushes you, it brings you to hell and back but what emerges is a polished and refined individual who now sees the color of the flag in a brighter shade of red, white and blue. My advice is to always remember that moment, that character transition, and to remember that “The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you.” You traded a day of your life to come into work and put on that uniform. Make it count. If you remember these things, with the aid of your wingmen and leadership, ANYTHING is attainable.

Quote by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1944, D-Day.

Photo:U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Ulla Stromberg, a 99th Inpatient Operations Squadron aerospace medical technician, takes the blood pressure of Airman 1st Class Matthew Lancaster, a 99th Air Base Wing photographer, April 4, 2011, at Mike O’Callaghan Federal Hospital at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Stromberg was recently named one of the Air Forces’ 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year. The Outstanding Airman of the Year Ribbon is awarded to 12 enlisted Airmen who display superior leadership, job performance, community involvement and personal achievements throughout the year. Air Force Association officials will honor the 12 recipients September 2011 during the Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stephanie Rubi)