GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
It was the end of the duty day and I climbed into my truck to head home. When I started my vehicle and pulled away, the song called “Five More Minutes” came on the radio, sung by country music star Scotty McCreery. After listening to the song, I thought to myself “What would I have done if I had five more minutes?”
Back in 2014, I wished I had just that…five more minutes. One afternoon, I got a phone call from one of my old Airmen that I was stationed with a couple of assignments back. This individual loved to talk and could keep you on the phone for hours; unfortunately I was pretty preoccupied with other work at that moment, so I graciously dismissed the conversation and told them I would give them a call later…however there was no later. A few weeks after that phone call, that Airman was found unresponsive in their garage with their car running.
When I was notified of what had happened I was in total in disbelief. All I could think of was how this situation couldn’t possibly be happening, because I had just talked to the individual a few weeks ago. So, I called the person who notified me and asked to verify if they were absolutely certain. Then reality hit me when I talked with the special investigator who was working the case, and the tragic reality was confirmed.
What “if” I gave the individual five more minutes on the phone? Would they still have taken their own life? I don’t know, but I can tell you this…it will NOT happen again! I dedicate my time to my Airmen. I tell them “My time is your time,” and I make sure to make time for them if they want to talk, no matter the time of day, I’m here for them 24/7.
As leaders and wingmen, it is imperative that we make time for our Airmen. If you say you have an “open-door-policy” make sure you are living up to your part of that deal and that the saying is not a cliché. Our Airmen go through a myriad of life stressors and sometimes need to talk. On the other hand, sometimes they just want career advice or just to bend your ear -- but you never know unless YOU listen. There is nothing so important that you can’t spare five minutes of your time to listen. You actually might just save a life. It is said that smart people learn from their mistakes, wise people learn from other’s mistakes… Be wise.