Being there for our wingmen

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Sharks, it's hard to believe we're nearly at the close of the year. We've just wrapped up the Combined Federal Campaign and the holiday season is upon us. I'd like to begin by congratulating everyone on the tremendous contributions to this year's CFC-we raised nearly $175,000 with a contact rate of 98 percent. We reached 116 percent of our goal!. The impact of these programs really can't be overstated and I'm proud of your generous contributions and it's a great lead into the holiday season of giving and celebration. However, this year's season will not be without the bitter.

Sadly, we lost one of our own Sharks, Airman 1st Class Andrew Plott of the Security Forces Squadron, last weekend. Like all of you, he was a valued and respected member in his squadron, in the wing and in the Air Force. He will be missed, and my thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends. The death of any active duty member is a tragedy, and the loss of a young airman, with a life full of hopes, dreams, and future accomplishment ahead of him, is particularly difficult to accept.

We can utilize the social cohesion of a military organization to help each other during these tough times. Each person in uniform gladly accepts personal responsibility for his unit's success and protecting the unit from harm, and so many of our civilians and contractor partners do the same. As one Airman put it, "the person next to you means more to you than anybody." This cohesion also bolsters us with the confidence and assurance that someone is always watching your back. The "wingman" concept, someone who is always watching your "six," is unique to the Air Force, and applies to all our members, on and off duty If you notice someone who may be in need, help them access the right resources, whether they be military or civilian.

The holiday season is historically a busy and a stressful time. This year, the Sharks are also very busy with three scheduled launches in December alone. I encourage you all to keep focused on the mission, but also work to balance these commitments with family time. Although this period is traditionally a festive time, it is also one where the additional stresses of being away from loved ones, the pressure of expectations and the hectic pace in general, can take its toll. On top of everything else, sometimes tragic things happen that we don't fully understand.

In any case, I strongly urge each of you to be extra vigilant during this season. And if you are a supervisor, remember that you have special responsibilities to enable and enforce our Wingman culture. If you feel strong, let someone lean on you for support during this holiday season, and if you need support yourself, don't hesitate to lean on a strong Shark. Remember: When in doubt, reach out.