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Taking care of Airmen

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- As members of the profession of arms, and warriors in the world’s best Air Force, there is no doubt that we all have a solemn responsibility to execute our duties to the best of our abilities in order to defend the nation. This is enshrined in our oaths, reflected in our core values and universally applicable to all that serve regardless of rank, position or duty title. It is likely that at some point in your career you have heard the phrase “taking care of Airmen” and may have even thought that this is a responsibility that falls solely within the realm of commanders, first sergeants and supervisors. While it is certainly true that those in leadership positions are entrusted with significant responsibilities in this area, we all have a role to significant role to play in this regard - followers, peers and leaders alike.

There are certainly many different tools that we can all leverage in order to take care of each other. One of the most important is to create, foster and cultivate a culture of dignity and respect, completely free of harassment and/or discrimination in any and all of its insidious forms. Anything less is completely incompatible with who we are as professional Airmen, and the sacred trust that the American people have placed in us. There is simply no place in the Air Force for those who would violate this principle, and it falls to each and every one of us who serve to preserve this special trust.

Another tool that is incredibly important in taking care of Airmen is the Wingman concept. As professional Airmen, we all aspire to serve something much greater than ourselves. A critical part of that service is being aware of and taking an active role in promoting the wellness of those that we serve alongside. Each and every one of us needs help, or will need help, with something at some point along the line. It is absolutely a sign of strength, not of weakness, to recognize this and to have the courage to ask for that help. It is also up to us as good wingmen to stand ready to answer that call.

General Mark A. Welsh III, our 20th Air Force Chief of Staff, often stressed that “every Airman has a story.” Moreover, he encouraged us all to learn more about each other’s stories in order to gain a greater understanding of and appreciation for those that we serve alongside. In this light, it has been my experience that the relationships and bonds that we build with our fellow Airmen during our service are what actually endure the test of time. At a recent meeting, a local civic leader stated that “if we both agreed all of the time, then one of us would be unnecessary.” This statement really resonated with me. Given that we all approach things from different perspectives, having a greater awareness of and an appreciation for each other’s background, strengths and weaknesses fosters more effective communication, collaboration and ultimately better outcomes for the mission.

Fostering a culture of dignity and respect, embracing the wingman concept and taking an active role in learning each other’s stories are just a few of the ways that we can take care of each other. It is an honor to continue to serve with you.