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NEWS | Aug. 11, 2006

We're family

By Senior Airman Christian Michael 1st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

After 27 months in training in Texas, California and Mississippi and training in three separate Air Force Specialty Codes, I've met a lot of first-term Airmen. When I arrived at Langley in 2003, I understood how first-term Airmen were viewing the world when they reached their first duty stations. 

In only six short years of service, I can't help but see the paramount difference between including our Airmen in Air Force operations and weaving them into the very fabric of our service. 

In a family, everything may not be rosy all the time or easy or fun, but there's security. There should never be a time when an Airman feels alone. When a family member feels alone enough to consider hurting themselves or others, in suicide or generally self-destructive behavior, the family has failed. 

When an Airman turns to alcohol, drugs or suicide to solve their problems, the Air Force family has failed, and we should imagine it in no other way. 

We don't need programs, however great, to make our Airmen our family. It takes us, taking an afternoon off and asking that Airman to join us for dinner, going to see a movie, having a barbecue, helping other Airmen move ... 

The supervisor takes his Airman volunteering with him or shopping or to hang out with his friends. It's inviting the new kid down the hall in your dorm to go to Applebee's so you can get him out and about. 

It's making sure your new supervisor knows his way around the area. It's putting your life into someone else's life, taking their life into yours, and holding each other up day in and day out. 

The potential benefits are incalculable. Going to war is easier because you know how to depend on your fellow man, and them to depend on you. It's Airmen by the droves turning to others so they don't feel the need to get sloshed every night to wash their pain away, or take all the pills in that bottle, or take that gun into the back room and lock the door. 

It won't end until we end it, until we put our foot down and declare that we've had enough of leaving Airmen by the wayside because of personal interests, force shaping or anything else that we put the blame out for our inattentiveness to our Airmen. 

Have we had enough or do we need more fodder in the police blotters to ooh and aah about to our friends and colleagues with "what a shame" this and "what a shame" that?
Find your Wingman, make him your battle buddy, sit in that trench with him and let him know that there is a way out, he won't have to fight forever and that here in the Air Force ...we're family.