HomeNewsArticle Display

Wingman Day promotes connection

Operations Training and Procedures manager for the Flight Standards Agency, Master Sgt. Timothy Lenker, discusses how he became involved in teaching suicide prevention classes with the Wingman Day audience on June 21 in the Air Force Sustainment Center Anaconda Room. (U.S. Air Force photos/Megan Prather)

Operations Training and Procedures manager for the Flight Standards Agency, Master Sgt. Timothy Lenker, discusses how he became involved in teaching suicide prevention classes with the Wingman Day audience on June 21 in the Air Force Sustainment Center Anaconda Room. (U.S. Air Force photos/Megan Prather)

Superintendent of Continuous Improvement with the 552nd Maintenance Group, Master Sgt. Shawn Cleophas, shared his personal account of resiliency while working to gain custody of his young son and subsequently becoming a single military father with the Wingman Day audience. Wingman Day is time set aside for squadrons to promote wellness, resiliency and comradery as well as to connect Airmen with the various helping agencies at Tinker.

Superintendent of Continuous Improvement with the 552nd Maintenance Group, Master Sgt. Shawn Cleophas, shared his personal account of resiliency while working to gain custody of his young son and subsequently becoming a single military father with the Wingman Day audience. Wingman Day is time set aside for squadrons to promote wellness, resiliency and comradery as well as to connect Airmen with the various helping agencies at Tinker.

Wingman Day is set aside to promote wellness, resiliency and comradery among squadrons within Tinker. 

During a Wingman Day event that took place in the Air Force Sustainment Center Anaconda room on June 21, the installation Community Support Coordinator informed personnel about various programs on base that can assist them through everyday life events. Two of the programs discussed were the Work Life 4 You and True Grit programs.

The Community Support Coordinator, Karen Blackwell, explained that Work Life 4 You provides 24/7 guidance and pre-screened referrals to federal employees and their dependents to nationwide resources to help manage day-to-day responsibilities and life events.

These responsibilities and events can range from assistance in finding child or adult care to help in continuing education and career development.

“This program does the research for you, and it not only benefits the member it benefits the government agencies because reduces absenteeism and improves productivity through reduced employee stress,” Blackwell said. “You’re more engaged at work because you know someone’s taking care of it. I think a huge amount of our workforce could use it.”

The opportunity was also used to discuss the Tinker Community Action Team’s True Grit Campaign. The mental health awareness program started in the spring with the intention of helping people identify the strengths they have within themselves, as well as to be encouraged by other Airmen’s stories of pushing onward despite personal hardship.

“When we talk about resiliency skills training we can have good coping mechanisms and all the skills in the world, but sometimes what it boils down to is our spirit to just keep pressing through,” Blackwell said.

The first phase of True Grit challenged Airmen to identify the ‘grit’ within themselves. Blackwell says the factors of having ‘true grit’ include: not letting things go, persisting through difficulties, surviving tough challenges, enjoying self-improvement and having a strong will.

The second phase of the True Grit program gave Airmen an opportunity to share their stories with the base population. 1C8 Operations Training and Procedures Manager for the Flight Standards Agency Master Sgt. Timothy Lenker and Superintendent of Continuous Improvement with the 552nd Maintenance Group Master Sgt. Shawn Cleophas shared their stories for the True Grit campaign, as well as the Wingman Day audience.

Cleophas discussed his experience of going through a divorce, gaining custody of his young son as a single father enlisted in the military and the struggle that comes along with asking for help from those around you.  

“The idea of the judgement is almost as significant as the problem itself because now you have to deal with the emotional weight of being judged and not looking as perfect as your professional image is saying.”

He said that getting through that time in his life involved communication with those around him and the conscious decision to persevere.

“We’re human and we go through problems and if you don’t engage and communicate, how do you connect your problems with solutions? You can’t. You’ll isolate yourself,” Cleophas said. “That’s one of the key methods [used] in most warfare. You isolate them and they’ll destroy themselves. Connecting genuinely with others is how you persevere.”

Lenker also discussed the importance of connectedness, as well as looking out for one another, as he told the story of his brother’s suicide attempt. Since the incident 15 years ago, Lenker has used his experience to teach suicide prevention classes.

“If we lose our connectedness and we don’t talk to the people around us then we can really get ourselves in a deep hole,” he said. “I challenge you to reach out to those that you know, to make a phone call once a week. As we increase in rank and responsibilities, we can’t lose our connections.”

Contact information for the various base helping agencies were also given to those in attendance. You can find base resources at https://www.tinker.af.mil/About-Us/Tinker-Helps/.