What it Means to be a 128 ARW Wingman

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Morgan Lipinski
  • 128th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Milwaukee-- Along with the Air Force core values- "Integrity First, Service before Self, and Excellence in All We Do"- being a good wingman is a key characteristic of any Airman. From the start of Basic Military Training, Airmen are taught to look out for one another as comrades and equals, wherever and whenever. 

At the 128th Air Refueling Wing, Wisconsin Air National Guard, the wingman concept continuously motivates Airmen to tackle challenges as a team. 

On a cold December morning, Technical Sgt. Richard Sanderson received the news that his wife was going into early labor with their sixth child. Sanderson, who has served 17 years of military service, works as a controller for the 128 ARW Command Post, the primary hub for expediting base-wide communication.

"Although my wife's early labor was somewhat unexpected, the Airmen in my unit didn't hesitate to step up while we were at the hospital," said Sanderson. 

Because every Airmen is trained to internalize the wingman concept, the Command Post Airmen offered their help to support their comrade during his time of need.

"While I was working at the Command Post, we received notice that Sanderson's baby may unexpectedly arrive that day," said Staff Sgt. Kathleen Finley, an Emergency Actions Controller with the 128 ARW Command Post.

"Because he was busy at the hospital, I volunteered to go pick up his kids from the bus stop, feed them, and watch after them until another neighbor could come take my place later that night."

Going above and beyond as a wingman, Finley also helped with house chores and purchased some essential grocery items for the Sanderson family.

"I'm a mom of four," said Finley. "I know how stressful leaving the hospital with a new baby can be. I just wanted to do my part to help them have an easy transition home." 

While Finley was helping the Sanderson family on the homefront, the other Command Post Airmen backfilled her position to safeguard the 128 ARW mission. 

"I volunteered to take the rest of Finley's Command Post shift while she was with the Sanderson family," said Chief Master Sgt. Kelly Whitehouse, the superintendent of the 128 ARW Command Post. 

Whitehouse also stated that other 128 ARW Command Post Airmen volunteered as backup support in the event that Sanderson  needed more aid  later on. 

"We'll always make sure our Airmen are taken care of, and we'll make sure the mission always gets done," said Whitehouse.

"My unit has been fantastic to my family," said Sanderson. "I am so thankful to be a part of such a great team." 

The Airmen of the 128 ARW Command Post demonstrate that the Air Force not only creates Airmen, it creates a supportive system of wingmen.

"When another Airman needs help, we step up to the plate," said Finley. "We make sure everyone is taken care of because the military is a family. That's what it means to be a wingman."