Friday, July 25, 2008

VIEW FROM THE TOP >> Back to basics…expanding on the ‘wingman’ concept

By Col. Mark Vlahos
314th Airlift Wing vice commander

In his editorial last week, our command chief touched on knowing your people. I would like to expand on this topic and give you my thoughts. At the tactical level, where the rubber meets the road, the wingman concept is very important.

The wingman concept embraces everything in our Airman culture, and should be, in effect, both on and off duty. None of us should be in a one-deep job without a wingman backup. The wingman is there to ensure we follow checklist discipline, operational resource management, maintenance resource management and just simply to ensure we focus efforts on the tasks at hand in a safe manner.

While commanders, first sergeants and supervisors set conditions for success and ensure we all have the resources to do our jobs, execution is always at the tactical level.

If the mission is not executed properly and safely, all the planning that went into it means nothing. If you ever feel that your job or task is driven by statistics and production quotas, then you need to step back and challenge your first-line supervisor to explain how this task fits into the overall big picture. In a peacetime training environment, safety is paramount.

Nothing we do absolutely has to be done today if the risk outweighs the benefits. Remember, lives are saved at the tactical level, not by folks in a conference room looking at Power Point slides.

We know how the wingman concept applies in a work situation. What about off duty? This is where first line supervisors truly have an impact. By really knowing your people, their family situations, and other interests and hobbies they might have, supervisors can make a difference. Just having a chat with your folks on a Friday before you break contact for the weekend could be the key event that breaks an error chain. Simply asking, “what are you doing this weekend?” might expose their plan to drive 14 hours straight after a full shift to see a loved one for a three-day weekend. Not a good plan. This is the perfect opportunity for a supervisor to say, “Let’s have a chat about this and go under the oak tree.” Perhaps a better idea is to cut a deal with the Airman departing for the weekend. Tell him you will give him the fourth day off, leave is required, on the condition he gets a good night’s sleep prior to departing the local area. Have him call you when he departs and when he arrives safely. This is being a wingman. This is what “going under the oak tree for a chat” is all about.

As we continue to go back to basics each day, let’s all make sure the wingman culture is alive and well. Thanks for all you do everyday here at the Rock. Combat Airlift!


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