The Christmas Spirit

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Christmas: It means so many things to so many people - for some, the birth of a savior; for others, a time to reflect; and for still more, a time to share with family and friends. And for a vast number of people across the United States, it means - or at least entails - shopping like at no other time of the year...myself included.

I recently found myself standing in the customer service line of a local store. From my vantage point, I noticed some merchandise that had fallen off the shelf and onto the floor. My initial thought was, "Doesn't anyone see it?" But as I continued to wait, I observed several people side-step, step over, and even physically man-handle their shopping cart around these items. I continued to muse, "Why doesn't someone pick them up?"

Just then, the line inched forward, enabling me to see down another aisle. From there, I watched a child remove several items from a shelf, place them on the floor, and begin playing with them. And as before, a number of people walked by and looked, but did nothing. In time, the child became bored, leaving the items behind on the floor. My thoughts moved to, "Who's responsible for this child and this area?"

Obviously, a store employee "owns" the shelf and floor areas and the child has a parent who is responsible for their conduct and welfare. But is this where responsibility ends? What about the many people who traversed these aisles? They could clearly see the problem - they had to navigate around it! Wouldn't it be easier to pick up the item than to pull your cart sideways, as I watched one lady do? Why do so many people choose to say, "Someone needs to..." instead of accepting personal responsibility to right a wrong - even though it may not specifically be their job?

This is what being a wingman is all about - accepting personal responsibility to maintain situational awareness and look out for others. Being a wingman doesn't necessarily involve your closest friend or the person you're directly responsible for. It may be a perfect stranger, anyone in need - a store employee who can't keep up with the holiday rush, a parent who has temporarily lost sight of their child, a fellow customer who could potentially trip over an item on the floor...or a fellow Iceman from across the base.

As we enter into this Christmas season, I encourage each member of the Iceman Team to be a good wingman. Look out for each other, especially during this time when it's dark, cold, and so many teammates are thousands of miles from home, family, and friends. Be aware of the dangers - whether physical, emotional, or spiritual. Lend a helping-hand, offer a kind word, assist someone in distress, accept personal responsibility, and never walk by a problem.

Whatever Christmas may mean to you, may this season bring you joy, peace, and hope as we look forward to a happy and prosperous new year.