The movement of fighter jets flashed across the screen, voices hushed, and we watched in suspense. Waldo Waldman, dressed in the suit of a pilot, explained how he led this formation of aircraft on a military mission. He told the story of the hours dedicated to preparing for each of his 65 ventures, the intense training he went through, and most importantly, the multitude of people who worked hard to make each mission a success. From the young man who filled his plane with gas to the pilot who flew directly alongside him, each individual had a key role which impacted Waldman’s experiences. Even the smallest of their actions mattered, and because of these people, these wingmen, Waldman returned safely each time he took flight.
I had the chance to hear Waldman speak at the Agriculture Future of America conference this fall in Kansas City, Missouri, and through all his presentation’s intensity, one phrase about the people who invested in him stuck with me.
“Wingmen never wing it.”
First of all, who are these wingmen for us?
Now, I don’t know about you, but I do not have airmen flying beside me 30,000 feet above ground. Nevertheless, I have people who walk right alongside me throughout life who I can count on just as much. At the University of Minnesota, two of these wingmen are my closest friends. Grace and Laura never fail to refuel me with encouragement (and ice cream), remind me when to get back on task, and fill my days with joy and dances to Christmas music. I know I can always count on them because they make a choice to support me each and every day, whether we see each other or not, and I do the same for them. These relationships push me to become better and are ones I can always fall back on. Our wingmen are the people who love and support us unconditionally.
Two FFA members I’ve met who are amazing wingmen for each other are Trinity and Tyffanie from the Winona FFA Chapter. These girls support each other through everything. They cheer each other on while competing in Prepared Public or extemporaneous speaking, worked up the courage to run for region office together, and yell in support during dodgeball at FFA lock ins. These two can always be counted on to be there for each other in support for any situation. They even hyped each other up enough to perform a song from the musical “Hamilton” at a regional talent show with two other chapter members! Their continual support allows each other to flourish and find success. Wingmen invest in relationships just like this one, and their commitment to building each other up lifts each of us to new heights. Who are your wingmen? These could be a friend, a teacher or advisor, a family member, or a community person who always encourages and lifts you up.
Now that we know who our wingmen are, why don’t they wing it?
Just like the way Waldman’s aircrew and pilots in his fleet needed to be prepared and in the right mindset so they can count on one another, we need to be intentional to support people in our relationships. To be a good wingman, each of us need to make the choice to fully invest in the people around us and use our time to develop relationships. In supportive friendships like these, it doesn’t work to fly by the seat of our pants. Being a good wingman requires commitment. This may look like the mutual commitment like Trinity and Tyffanie have where they can count on one another.
I know my wingmen are always there, whether I complete a flight mission successfully or crash and burn.
So, how can we be good wingmen for the people around us?
To keep from “winging it,” let’s plan to support the people we love. This can look like scheduling time to call a friend we haven’t talked to in awhile, writing a note recognizing the amazing qualities we see in the people around us, or posting a picture with a kind caption on our social media. Maybe we can plan to carve out time to offer our agriculture teachers help organizing books or cleaning the shop. We could even start a tradition, like one of my dear friends, of texting a verse or quote every morning to our friends to consistently show love. We can start with one planned action and build on it. When we do this, and add a second and third action, we build up trust and faith that we will continuously be there for the people around us.
What will your planned act of support be?
As you head out into the world today, be the best wingman you can be, and remember:
Wingmen Never Wing It.
Stationed by the plow,