Building wingmanship

Senior Airman William Johnson, 436th Airlift Wing public affairs photojournalist, bear crawls during the GORUCK Light team cohesion challenge Sept. 25, 2015, on Dover Air Force Base, Del. Johnson, participating in his second GORUCK Light, was one of 31 participants that completed numerous physical challenges led by a qualified GORUCK Light cadre. (U.S. Air Force photo/Roland Balik)

Senior Airman William Johnson, 436th Airlift Wing public affairs photojournalist, bear crawls during the GORUCK Light team cohesion challenge Sept. 25, 2015, on Dover Air Force Base, Del. Johnson, participating in his second GORUCK Light, was one of 31 participants that completed numerous physical challenges led by a qualified GORUCK Light cadre. (U.S. Air Force photo/Roland Balik)

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- There are several benefits of serving in the military; traveling, life experiences and education just to name a few. But one of the biggest benefits we often don't utilize is our wingman.

Different branches call it different things. The Army and Marines have battle buddies and the Navy and Coast Guard has shipmates. So regardless of the term, you can always turn to this person for support and motivation. This holds true for all aspects of your military career. Nervous about a test; turn to your wingman. Having trouble at home; turn to your shipmate. Need help moving for a permanent change of station; ask your battle buddy.

I tend to turn to my wingmen for physical fitness, and why not? If you look around your shop, office or hangar, odds are there is a wealth of knowledge waiting to be tapped into. I have a wingman that I go to for supplement and nutrition information. I have a different wingman that I work out with. I even have a wingman that recently guided me in purchasing my first fitness wearable. There is practically no limit to what your wingman can help you with.

Last week, I took part in my second GORUCK Light event. GORUCK events are team challenges where participants are placed in a formation with rucksacks varying in different weight with the objective to cover a certain distance in a designated amount of time, all while completing vigorous PT sessions and carrying heavy objects. A GORUCK Light event can last anywhere from four to five hours and covers a distance of seven to 10 miles. Aside from your GORUCK Cadre, who gives you basic instructions before each segment of the ruck, participants are assigned as a leader or an assistant leader and are responsible for getting the formation from point A to point B in the shortest amount of time possible. Leaders are rotated out at each checkpoint, generally giving everyone the chance to lead.

So how does a GORUCK event relate to wingmanship? For me, it was the perfect opportunity to find new wingmen among the participants. Thirty-two Airmen started and 31 finished. Among the 31 Airmen that finished I only knew about five, so throughout the day I was able to meet, connect, and rely on 26 new wingmen I had not previously known. Throughout the ruck, we carried the U.S. flag, weight plates, kettle bells, other people and worst of all, a several hundred pound log. Aside from the objects we carried, we participated in various PT exercises and team challenges that included races, low crawls, bear crawls, buddy drags and even an extended session of flutter kicks while the Cadre hosed our faces down with water.

But no matter where I was at on the "pain meter" during the ruck, I could always look to my left or right and see a wingman seemingly wincing in anguish as I was. But it's when you look at your wingman expressing the same amount of pain as you that you both just smile and laugh and push through to the next stage.

I witnessed the true concept of wingmanship in our various leaders during the ruck. All throughout the ruck we had different leaders ranging from company grade officers to the junior enlisted Airman tier. We had some leaders that called cadences and jodies and we had some leaders who focused solely on the task at hand.  It was interesting to watch as the group would adjust to new leaders and how the leaders responded to the group, even when things weren't going so swell. But the one thing that always stood out was the group's motivation and determination to finish the task.

I believe it was the wingman concept that pushed most of the participants through our 7.8 mile day. It was having someone on your left and right who was going through the same experience as you. I challenge you to go outside of your comfort zone and meet new wingmen outside your work center and get to know them on a personal level. You never know what knowledge you could gain from them, or what knowledge you could share with them.