Salute those who save: Celebrate prevention efforts


From the moment we join the Air Force we learn about being a wingman. But do we really grasp how this simple concept can make a huge difference?


Over the past six months, I’ve dealt with two Airmen. Airmen just like any one of you. Airmen who reinforced the importance of looking out for each other. The first was a maintainer who noticed a friend (from my squadron) going through a difficult time and made sure this person received help. The second was an Airman from my squadron who helped a Soldier friend get through a difficult time.


Both of these individuals ended up averting two potentially devastating outcomes. Were their actions extraordinary? They would say “No,” but I would disagree.


We’re good at sharing information about the number of people who take their lives; but we don’t celebrate lives saved with the same vigor. Regardless of the difficulty in verifying the cause-effect relationship of any potential save, we should search these saves out and celebrate them.


People need to realize that very simple, everyday actions can save lives. Smiling and saying, “Good morning,” to someone as you pass them by. Even taking the time to let someone vent, or bounce ideas off you, to come up with a solution to their problems. These actions save lives.


Of course, I would recommend you prepare yourself for the fact a simple, “How are you doing today?” or, “Is everything ok?” could lead to the individual actually telling you their problems.


For instance, when I worked in Albuquerque, N.M., I walked behind an individual who passed a visibly upset coworker and asked, “Having a good morning?” The coworker proceeded to unload and completely caught him off guard. After a few seconds, he recovered, listened intently and provided assistance to the coworker.    


This kind of interaction happens each day and we sometimes fail to grasp its significance. As a commander, people can bring me their issues and we can work with many different support agencies to get them the help they need. But not everyone will come to the commander with their issues—some won’t seek help at all.


Every day, there are people out there who, we don’t even realize, are in a critical situation. If we all take an extra second to connect with those around us, and celebrate those who save, we will create an environment where people will not feel isolated and we will hear their call for help.