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Air Guard pauses to reflect on suicide, high-risk behavior
Col. John Slocum, the Air National Guard's safety director, discusses high-risk behavior, suicides and Wingman concepts with Airmen from the Air Guard Readiness Center at the base theatre on Joint Base Andrews, Md., during an Air Force-wide Wingman Stand-down June 9, 2010.
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Air Guard pauses to reflect on suicide, high-risk behavior

Posted 6/22/2010   Updated 6/22/2010 Email story   Print story


by Air Force Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
National Guard Bureau

6/22/2010 - JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- Air National Guard members here and across the nation reflected on best safety practices and their efforts to take care of each other during a "Wingman Stand-down" today.

In May, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz directed the Air Force-wide, four-hour stand-down at all Air Force units to highlight accident awareness and prevention issues.

Airmen from the Air National Guard Readiness Center (ANGRC) assembled at the base theatre here and listened to Air Force Lt. Gen. Harry Wyatt III, director of the Air Guard.

"In order to accomplish our mission effectively, each of us has to be a Wingman, leader and a warrior," he said. "We all have personal stories illustrating the Wingman concept, when either we have helped someone overcome a problem or they have helped us in a time of need."

The Wingman concept can be as simple as being aware of risky behavior and looking out for fellow Airman to prevent injury, accidents and death, said officials.

Guard officials reported that the Air Force lost about 27 Airmen this year to suicide and averages more than 50 Airmen killed in automobile and motorcycle accidents each year.

Wyatt said the Air National Guard lost seven Air Guard members to suicide this year and another 10 Airmen were killed in automobile, motorcycle, recreational and other ground mishaps.

"These numbers are alarming, and should serve as a wakeup call for all of us," he said.

Wyatt called motor vehicle and motorcycle accidents preventable with good judgment.

"At least 70 percent of those accidents involve reckless behavior, such as speeding, distracted driving involving cell phones or text messaging, drinking and driving and failure to wear personal protective equipment, including seatbelts and helmets," he said.

Wyatt also noted the purpose of the stand-down to reenergize the "Wingman concept" as a foundation to suicide prevention.

"The chief of staff's guidance for stand down 2010 emphasizes awareness, accountability, team building, communication and interaction, not one-sided lectures," said Wyatt. "I encourage you to develop activities that enhance awareness of these issues and promote communication and development of the Wingman concept."

Air Force Col. Michael McDonald, the ANGRC commander, and Col. John Slocum, the Air Guard's safety director discussed high-risk behavior, suicides and wingman concepts with the group of about 1,000.

"We need to take care of each other," said McDonald. "If you don't like the term 'Wingman,' then think of a brother-in-arms, or a best friend or a buddy or a partner; whatever you want to call it, the concept is there, and it means we are going to take care of each other."

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