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Wingmen, a culture of responsible choices

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- What is life all about? Why does one person's life or career seem to be better than others? Of course there's tragedy such as natural disasters and "freak" accidents.  Sometimes bad things happen to people which they simply cannot affect, predict, or  avoid. However, I submit to you that a majority of life's successes or failures is guided by one factor - choices.

To me, life is about choices, and a good life is about making responsible choices. Good  choices come from experience. Wingmen help us through the gap between consistently good choices and experience. Every day Airmen make choices that affect themselves,  and those around them, either for good or bad. To illustrate this point, let me share a personal story about one of my daughters. I call it the "turtle story," and boy does she  hate it when I tell it to people. Anyhow, here we go!

We were fishing in the Maxwell AFB ponds in the spring of 2003 with some visiting  friends and family. Unfortunately, my daughter (10 years old at the time) caught a rather large snapping turtle. Being stubborn like her father, she insisted she could take the  hook out. Being a stubborn father and wingman at the time, I refused to let her do it - and  she was mad. Real mad.

I then explained to her the concept of choices, and that I was being a good father/wingman. I explained if she did this, and the rather large turtle bit her finger off, it  would not only affect her, but everyone there. We would have to pack up, depart the  gathering, and spend a day at the emergency room. Also, she might spend the rest of her life missing a finger.

By now the turtle was pretty angry having to wait with a hook in its mouth while I  pontificated to my daughter, but we safely released it.

That day my daughter and I had a choice to make. She could have just stuck her finger in  the turtle's mouth. I could have been a poor father/wingman and let her try it. Together we made the responsible choice and everything was fine. Today, she is a freshman at the University of Texas in Austin, and she has all her fingers.

So how does this apply to you? Well, everyone's life is about choices. People choose to do things that often result in bad outcomes.

For example, people choose to drink and drive; poor wingmen choose to let them do it. We all need to build a "culture of responsible choices" in all aspects of our lives - in our  efforts to educate ourselves, take care of our fitness, take care of our finances, and be safe while participating in activities both on and off duty as just a few examples. I submit to you that life is about choices. I look forward to seeing you about the base and downtown, making good choices.