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Wingman Concept Critical to Suicide Prevention

  • Published
  • By Col. Timothy Zadalis
  • 43rd Airlift Wing Commander
With the upcoming Labor Day Weekend, it is again time to stress the importance of being a good wingman. This not only includes alcohol and making sure your wingman doesn't drink and drive, but also suicide. Regrettably, some Airmen choose to end their lives to solve temporary problems. That's why we must take care of each other. 

Be on the look out for the common risk factors associated with suicide. Statistics show that the majority of suicide attempts are the result of extreme distress, depression, alcohol and drug abuse, separation, and divorce. If you see a change in the behavior of one of your wingmen, you must report it. You could save their life. 

Unfortunately, one Air Force base suffered a loss as a result of a member "ghosting." This is when an Airman has a dorm room, but rents and lives in an apartment off base. There was a breakdown in the wingman concept, but because the Airman was not living in their dorm room they were not discovered until nine days after the suicide. I want to stress that this practice is not allowed. 

Additionally if an Airman PCAs, we must make sure that their next unit has full accountability of that member. Accountability is key, and we must look out for our people.
Leadership is an awesome responsibility. As commanders and supervisors, I want to remind you that you must learn all you can about this issue. I recommend you read the 

"Leader's Guide for Managing Personnel in Distress." Recent surveys indicate less than only about 21 percent of leaders have seen this guide, which you can access at

I want to re-emphasize when and where support services are available. If you or your wingman need someone to talk to, dedicated professionals from the Chapel, Alcohol Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Program, Family Advocacy Program, Airman and Family Support Center, and Life Skills are there to help. Always remember that help is available. 

More of our Airmen are deploying to locations that place them directly in combat zones. When our people return, they also must be reminded of these support agencies. I need every leader to support their personnel who are seeking help. And, we must not only meet but exceed AMC's requirement that 90 percent of our members have received their annual suicide and violence awareness training. This also includes the requirement for primary and alternate squadron trainers. 

On a more positive note, the base looks great and last weekend I visited the dorms. I was amazed at one Airman's immaculate dorm room. I want to commend Airman Jason Abney, 43rd Logistics Readiness Squadron, for being a good steward. 

I would also like to thank the Missoula Children's Theater for putting on a fantastic play that was sponsored by the Youth Center. I absolutely enjoyed myself and was impressed by the performance. 

Lastly, I want to thank the many Team Pope members who are taking care of each other every day.