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Safety and your wingman: Safety through teamwork

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt Gary Wayland
  • 90th Missile Wing Honor Guard
During the past year, the 90th Missile Wing Honor Guard has accomplished 111 details, 60 of them being funerals. Safety is the first priority when working to accomplish our endeavor - to honor a fallen veteran at his or her final resting place. In order to do so, the Honor Guard always relies on our fellow ceremonial guardsman, our wingman, to help accomplish these taskings. No one person can carry out a funeral detail alone, it takes two, three, seven or 20 members to accomplish the most precise of movements, to achieve our common goal - Honor and Respect. Achieving this goal is not an accident; it is precisely planned, practiced and executed.

When tasked with a detail, every member understands the process involved. The first step happens at a pre-determined time, requiring one member to get a vehicle and perform a safety check, or Air Force Form 1800 inspection, ensuring the vehicle is ready for the road ahead. This individual is responsible for making sure the vehicle will get the entire team to the detail and then back to station safely. Next, they rendezvous with the team where they complete additional safety checks on required detail equipment. They ensure the assigned weapons are cleared and secure in cases, and the ammunition is secure in its ammo can for the ride. Additionally, the bugle is accounted for and loaded for the playing of "Taps." Prior to departure, the team leader ensures his or her team is dressed, and an inspection of uniforms is completed. Finally, the team dispatches to the location of interest. Throughout this process, wingmen have a crucial part in every step of the way; however, the journey has only begun and the wingman's role is greatly increased upon departure from the installation.

The drive is long, three and a half hours to the destination, but the driver is guided by his wingman or navigator. Both these individuals understand they are responsible for more than just themselves. They have the responsibility for others in the vehicle, the duty to arrive on time to complete the detail, and a complete responsibility to represent the U.S. Air Force. During the detail, multiple members are precisely synchronized and move as one. The firing party sounds together as one, showing respect to the deceased member and the service to our great country. Then on cue, a member produces "Taps" from the bugle. Upon completion, all weapons are cleared, and equipment and personnel are accounted for prior to the trek home. When safely arriving at the installation, the weapons are cleared and checked a second time and secured. It is at this point the team can account for another successful detail, due to the teamwork of every individual. Safety should be everyone's first priority, and success in your work is reliant on being an excellent wingmen and team members in every aspect of your daily agenda.

You and your wingmen are a team, responsible for each other. I challenge all to identify one person as your absolute wingman, a person you know will respond in an instant, who has the integrity to hold themselves to this charge. If you have these priorities lined up, there is no limit to what can be accomplished, no matter what you have been tasked. If your sight for safety and teamwork becomes blurred, it is likely an Honor Guard will be conducting a detail for your family earlier than they ever should.