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Feeling the Squeeze

  • Published
  • By Colonel Greg Lengyel
  • Commander, 1st Special Operations Wing
Military aircraft fly in formation to provide mutual support in combat. Two aircraft are more effective than an aircraft flying alone, and a formation is more capable both offensively and defensively. Most tactical aircraft have a blind spot behind them, or in their 6 o'clock position. Good wingmen watch each other's "6." If an aircraft goes down, his wingman provides support and calls in the rescue force. 

The same is true for our Airmen. We are all more effective and capable with a wingman than we are alone. Good wingmen provide mutual support. They look out for each other. A good wingman won't let his buddy drink too much and get into a fight. He won't let him get behind the wheel after consuming alcohol. He recognizes signs of distress in the Airman who needs help, and he calls-in the rescue force. 

The 1st Special Operations Wing has been continuously deployed for over 8 years. We have one of the highest operations tempos in the Air Force right now, and we continue to ask a lot from our Airmen. However, there is really no other unit than can replace us, and if anything, the appetite for deployed 1st SOW assets is increasing. 

We have a series of major inspections coming up. In the next month, we'll receive a Health Services Inspection and a Command Cyber Readiness Inspection. Many of our Airmen have been working long hours in preparation for these inspections. Early next year, we'll receive an Operational Readiness Inspection, for which we've been preparing with multiple Operational Readiness Exercises. Our most recent ORE involved more than 600 1st SOW Airmen exercising in chemical gear for a normal duty week plus the weekends on both ends. 

If that's not enough, I'm writing this article between battle staff meetings on a Sunday night for Hurricane Ida's hurricane evacuation. That means that hundreds of 1st SOW Airmen have been at work on another weekend preparing and flying aircraft to a safe location to preserve our irreplaceable combat assets. 

I'd be remiss if I did not factor in the economic recession. We are fortunate in the military to not have to worry about a pay cut, but many working spouses have lost jobs or taken pay cuts. Many of our families are experiencing tough times. 

The result: many Airmen are feeling the "squeeze", or pressure created by the cumulative effect of workload, stress and financial pressure. Your leadership knows it, and I am actively looking for other stress factors and demands on the wing that I can control and reduce. One thing that will not change is the fact that our country needs the 1st SOW and its Airmen. That's you. 

Life is challenging for all of us. These pressures you may be feeling affect relationships, and many of our Airmen inappropriately attempt to release this stress through domestic violence or seek refuge in alcohol or illegal drugs. We have agencies on the base to help our Airmen who are not prepared to deal with these common life problems. 

The 1st SOW will hold its semiannual Wingman Day on Nov. 16. One of our focus items will be suicide prevention. 

We've had three 1st SOW Airmen tragically take their own life in the past year. But on a positive note, we've also had some great wingman actions that brought help to Airmen in distress who were considering suicide. 

Until we get through this "perfect storm" of demands on this wing, I ask all 1st SOW Airmen to make an extra effort to be a good wingman. Be on the lookout for the Airman who is feeling the squeeze and needs some help. Lookout for that Airman in distress, and call in the rescue force if required. You just might save the life of a fellow Air Commando.