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Why You Always Need a Wingman


At every stage in life we all need a good wingman, and not just when you’re at the bar. This can be a matter of life or death.

The critical concept of “mutual support” was drilled into us as shiny new Ensigns undergoing Primary Flight School training in Corpus Christi, Texas. When it starts going down, you need someone to watch your back and your wingman needs the same.

In a real fleet squadron it was no different. Every time we hit the afterburners and launched from the deck of our aircraft carrier on a combat mission, we had to have a wingman. No wingman, no launch.

No exceptions.

Want to win? Enlisting the aid of another winged Naval Aviator at your side juiced the odds in your favor. Big time. Just one lone wingman exponentially increased your section’s survivability, your chances of successfully completing the mission and most importantly saving our guys and gals on the deck.

With a wingman, you had another set of eyes to watch out for air and ground threats, you had someone else to cover your tail in a dogfight,[1] and you had someone else to safely guide you home ‘back to the boat’ if your nav equipment failed at night in the blackest of clouds. Yeah, that happened to me: icing + complete instrument failure = not so fun.

But all that is meaningless to you if you’re a civilian, except this final point we learned at Navy SERE [2] School: the number one predictor of survival if you were shot down was HAVING ANOTHER SURVIVOR with you.

Not having a bazooka, or Rambo-like wilderness skills. Not even having a ‘positive mental attitude’, which was a close second. Turns out that eventually everyone has a bad day: hunger, loneliness, desperation, fear and hopelessness can strike you on day ten or day three-hundred. When it comes, you’d better have your wingman (either Iceman or in a pinch, Wilson, take your pick) close to get you back on track.

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So how does this apply to you? Don’t go all Han Solo on us and try to do this all by yourself. Find someone and keep each other going through the darkness; with humor, music, sheer force of will, Combos 7-layer Tortilla Dip flavor (awesome, by the way) or whatever you’ve got on hand.

If you don’t have anyone, I’ll be your wingman. Stay alive, no matter what. 

[1] A ‘dogfight’ is pilot term for air-to-air combat within visual range. PETA, can you please stop email spamming me, I love dogs…

[2]Survival, Evasion, Resistance & Escape School: somewhat unpleasant prep for the dreadful chance of getting shot down / ejecting over enemy lines and then captured. Re-enacted by the Navy’s finest sailors, hand-selected for their long standing membership in the Black Shoe’s underground “We Hate Pilots” club.

With love and respect, Dave

 

 

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