Airmen participate in Wingman Day events

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- Sexual assault, drinking and driving and suicide are, for some, uncomfortable topics, but they were the focus of group discussions during Aviano’s Wingman Day Monday.

“It’s important that we talk about these things because it’s better to break the ice when someone’s life is not in danger,” said Lt. Col. Todd Phinney, 31st Fighter Wing chief of safety, who compared it to talking about drugs with your children.

Beginning with a mandatory briefing for all 31st Fighter Wing Airmen at Hangar One and continuing on into individual squadron events, the Wingman Day theme was all about safety.

“We wanted to take a pause from our busy daily routines and focus on our wingman program and what could be done to improve it,” said Colonel Phinney. “Some of the issues we’re facing are trends and this was a chance for all of us to stop and concentrate on them.

”At the two mass briefings, the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator and safety representatives spoke, reminding Airmen of their purpose. Senior Airman Dominick Griego, 31st Logistics Readiness Squadron, also spoke about his own difficulties with alcohol and how he dealth with his addiction with the help of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevent and Treatment program.

After the morning briefing, Airmen were released to their individual squadrons for informal discussions and group activities. To tackle some of the more difficult topics, the 31st Communications Squadron broke down into small groups, allowing Airmen to share their experiences and viewpoints on a more personal level.

“This makes people more aware of the issues they could encounter on a day-to-day basis and helps them come up with ways to handle problems before they are actually in the middle of them,” said Master Sgt. Bob Regan, 31st CS base systems chief. “Our end goal is to make us a more effective Air Force and, by being better wingmen, we can accomplish that.”

The groups also talked about different scenarios that resulted in sexual assault and what could have been done to prevent it.

“The wingman concept really comes alive in the small group setting,” said Colonel Phinney. “It gives people a chance to talk about emergency types of situations, with all the time in the world, and how to formulate a game plan.

”In addition to rehearsing scenarios, squadrons participated in group sports and team-building activities.

“We’re doing things like intra-flight volleyball games to strengthen our camaraderie and esprit de corps,” said Chief Master Sgt. Mervin Morris, 31st Maintenance Squadron first sergeant.