Pillar II: Prevent ARIs – Take Care of Your Wingman

by Capt. Erika Best
ADAPT Program Manager

A Wingman flies behind and outside of the leader. His role is vital — to monitor for potential threats that may not yet be visible to others, to communicate those threats clearly, and to help the team avoid the threat to safely complete their shared mission. Clearly a wingman is an essential member of any team in the air. But a good wingman is an asset in all aspects of life, whether at work or at play. In fact, the 86th Airlift Wing’s stance “No ARIs…No Excuses…Drink Responsibly,” incorporates the vital role of Wingmen in preventing alcohol-related incidents.

Monitor for Potential Threats
The Wingman’s first responsibility is to assess information and maintain situational awareness. The Wingman’s watchful eyes monitor for potential threats, but may also help to identify blind spots. The Wingman has a different vantage point from which to observe, and many people lack personal awareness when under the influence of alcohol.

For example, someone whose mood drastically changes when drinking, or one who thinks they are “fine” to drive even though they have had a drink or two. The Wingman’s outside perspective may help them to more accurately assess the risks. By sharing this information with the person, or helping them to consider alternatives, the Wingman can help them to avoid public embarrassment or even an ARI.

It is often helpful to establish a plan for the evening before getting started, so that everyone is aware of what to expect. Going out with “like-minded” people who all have the same plan can reduce the possibility of chaos once the drinks start flowing. Here are some things to consider when creating a plan for the night:
What are locations that we should avoid? When should we plan on leaving? Should we limit how much money we spend? How is everyone getting home? Who is the designated driver?

Communicate Threats
Even the best plans sometimes fail. So the next step, when a threat is noted, is to communicate it clearly to others. At times this may mean sharing an unpopular opinion because it is important for safety or mission success. These messages are more easily accepted by others when delivered in a compassionate and direct way.

Here are some suggestions:
• “I am concerned. This doesn’t seem safe. Let’s get back to the plan.”

• “I am worried you may be upset with me tomorrow, if I let you go through with this.”

• “This seems like it has potential to go badly. What if we go to another place instead?”

Avoid the Threat
Despite what some may think, a good Wingman is not the person who just puts their friend to bed when the person has had too much to drink. Nor is it the Wingman’s job to hold a friend’s hair when sick from too many drinks. Instead, a good Wingman is one who will speak up, take charge and change the course of the evening before things go downhill. The Wingman seeks to fulfill the mission of the night so everyone can have a good time, while still remaining vigilant and intervening, when needed. This requires decisive action.

For example; is a friend already starting to slur? Maybe they don’t need another shot. Instead, offer alternatives:

• Get them some water or food while still enjoying the music.

• Engage them in a game of pool or darts to distract them from the alcohol for a while.

• Offer to take them home, or to another location.

Ultimately, being a good Wingman is simple; look out for someone else the same way you want them to look out for you. These simple techniques can help. Remember: “NO ARIs, No Excuses…Drink Responsibly.” For more information on responsible drinking, please contact the Ramstein ADAPT Program at DSN 479-2390.