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Taking Care of People

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- One of the biggest responsibilities we have as military members is to take care of our people. Even though that is easy to say, it is something that is often easily forgotten. As a military member, this is a concept I have been aware of and tried to develop my entire life.

The Air Force has further developed taking care of people with the Wingman concept. We are all familiar with the phrase: "you learned everything you need to know in life in grade school." When it comes to taking care of people this couldn't be more accurate.

I remember my first-grade teacher telling me to pair up with a classmate when we were on a field trip, or to always use the buddy system when walking to and from school. During high school and college, this became even clearer while preparing for grueling exams, attending parties or working on assigned projects. It was always safer if I knew there was a friend watching out for me.

After joining the military, this concept of taking care of people became crystal clear. We have all heard the armed service's motto of: "Leave no one behind," which is really just a commitment to take care of people.

As I progressed in years of service and became a doctor, I realized that people taking care of one another could save lives. I saw multiple instances of non-commissioned officers and commissioned officers looking out for junior members that needed a helping hand. Whether it was helping a family facing a deployment, fund-raisers for the community, or helping someone that just lost a loved one, taking care of people was crucial.

When I deployed, taking care of people became standard operating procedure for survival. As a senior member in a medical unit in northern Iraq, I quickly learned that each member of our unit played an essential role in the survival of our patients and our return to our families. All of these experiences are really extensions of the Wingman concept and the lesson I learned in first grade.

Now, as the commander of a squadron, I am reminded on a daily basis how critical it is to take care of one another. I have seen Airmen helping Airmen with financial problems or relationship problems, chain of command issues and a long list of problems that are tough to face alone. In all these instances, the situations were always made better because there was someone taking care of the person experiencing the problems.

This year, the Air Force has seen a recent spike in the number of motor vehicle accidents, driving under the influence incidents and the tragic loss of some of our members in deployed regions and state side locations.

In all these instances, I wonder who was helping to take care of these Airmen? Did they forget the Wingman concept? Like I stated earlier, taking care of people is something we all learned in grade school so let's not forget this lesson as we face the future.

With the joy and stress of the rapidly approaching holiday season, the potential for many of our Airmen to need additional support is great. Now, like always, is a good time to reach out and try our best to take care of our friends, coworkers and families. The holidays should be filled with happiness and joy, and is not a time to get in a motor vehicle accident, drive drunk, create financial burdens or stress out about current relationships.

If we all work on remembering that essential first grade lesson, we might be able to minimize any tragedies at Offutt this holiday season. So, face the holidays with confidence knowing you are properly armed and ready to take care of people this holiday season.