The resilient wingman

Worship services are held in the March Air Reserve Base Chapel each unit training assembly weekend. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Megan Just)

Worship services are held in the March Air Reserve Base Chapel each unit training assembly weekend. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Megan Just)

MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, CALIF. -- While waiting for takeoff on an airplane recently, I watched the flight attendant go through one of those familiar pre-flight safety speeches. One part of that common presentation struck me--"In the event of an emergency, oxygen masks will drop from panels above you. You should put the oxygen mask on yourself first before helping others."

For anyone who is a parent, that response is counter-intuitive. Instinctively, our reaction is to insure that our child's need is met first before we care for ourselves. In reality, those instructions provide a simple survival technique. You have to help yourself before you can help others.

As Airmen, we know the importance of being a good wingman. The concept is ingrained in our Air Force culture. The term comes from fighter pilots. When a pilot has an enemy locked in his sights and is ready to take down that enemy plane he can't see what's going on around him. He counts on his wingman to keep him safe while he takes the shot.

Being a good wingman means we're committed to looking out for those around us. As a wingman, my impulse is to recognize when other Airmen are in distress and to have the courage to do something about it, but there's another side to the equation and it's this--to be a good wingman I must be healthy myself.

Five holistic health domains

Good health is the combination of several factors. Here are five dimensions that need attention in order to maintain comprehensive health, well being and the ability to cope.

SPIRITUAL - faith that is practiced and fosters spiritual growth
PSYCHOLOGICAL - realistic beliefs and attitudes
SOCIAL - family, friends, colleagues
PHYSIOLOGICAL - rest and exercise
BIOLOGICAL - nutrition and immune system

It may sound selfish to say, "Take care of yourself first," but the reality is, if we do not take care of ourselves, we will not be able to care for others. I challenge you to become a resilient wingman--taking care of yourself and others.