The Air Force Wingman Culture

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Craig Rispoli
  • 18th Space Control Squadron

Culture is defined as the behaviors and norms found throughout society. It is the set of customs, traditions, and values of a society or community, such as an ethnic group, a nation or a force. 

I am an American Airman.

Wingman, Leader, Warrior.

I will never leave an Airman behind,

I will never falter,


That is our culture. We are wingmen, leaders and warriors. We are brothers and sisters in the Profession of Arms and we are dedicated to flying, fighting and winning together. 

The wingman concept is definitely not something new. We are all familiar with our Wingman Day requirements two or three times a year, and of course there are rules and regulations instructing us to be good wingmen. For example, AFI 36-2618, The Enlisted Force Structure, states that as a junior enlisted Airmen you must “know and understand the wingman concept.” Telling our troops to be good wingmen is easy to do, but the act of actually being a good wingman is much more difficult. It requires us to share a bond with other Airmen; a bond strong enough so that it is understood you can be counted on to support one another in all situations, both on and off-duty. Being a wingman is a privilege, not a right. It is a responsibility, a trust, a partnership that grows with wisdom, knowledge and transparency. 

In fact, being a wingman is not a concept at all; it is a culture. It’s something that needs to be passed down from Airman to Airman through social learning. Our Airmen come from different places, and no two of them have grown up learning the same values. They don’t approach all situations the same, they don’t deal with adversity the same way, and they don’t all necessarily believe in the same things. However, all of us have one thing in common – we felt a calling. We all chose a path that less than 0.5 percent of the American population chooses. We raised our hands and took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. Our desire to become an American Airman bonds us together. Recognize the commitment each and every one of us has made, and use it to strengthen your resolve to never let an Airman fall behind.

Be a wingman every day. Not just on Wingman Days, around holidays, or when someone goes through a significant event, but every day! Get to know your brothers and sisters and build a relationship with them that fosters our culture of taking care of one another. Build a bond that is unbreakable and inherently implies that you will intervene whenever necessary to maintain an environment free of any behavior that hinders their ability to maximize their potential and contribution to our force. Aim high! Fly, fight, and win!