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What it means to be a wingman

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England ? Staff Sgt. Nathan Santiago, 372nd Training Squadron, Detachment 16 Aerospace Ground Equipment instructor, describes the engine of a munitions handling truck to Airman 1st Class Ashley Cory, 48th Equipment Maintenance Squadron AGE apprentice, Dec. 29, 2011. Detachment 16 is responsible for the training of more than 2,000 48th Fighter Wing aircraft maintainers. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. David Dobrydney)

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England ? Staff Sgt. Nathan Santiago, 372nd Training Squadron, Detachment 16 Aerospace Ground Equipment instructor, describes the engine of a munitions handling truck to Airman 1st Class Ashley Cory, 48th Equipment Maintenance Squadron AGE apprentice, Dec. 29, 2011. Detachment 16 is responsible for the training of more than 2,000 48th Fighter Wing aircraft maintainers. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. David Dobrydney)

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- All of us have at one time needed help. Maybe our car has broken down and we are left on the side of the road wondering what the next step will be. We sit there and watch people as they drive by us in our weakened state, lost in their own worlds, and wonder to ourselves why nobody stops to simply ask us if they can help.

Finally, somebody does stop, and asks us if everything is all right and could we use some help? Sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes no. Many of us wonder what the difference is between the dozens of people who passed us, and the person who actually took the time to stop and simply ask if everything is all right. Just the fact that somebody stopped reaffirms to each one of us that people still care.

In the Air Force, we often hear somebody use the phrase, "being a good wingman." What embodies being a good wingman?

A good wingman is simply someone who puts the needs of others before themselves. They walk among us carrying out this philosophy quietly and humbly. Our true wingmen are the foundation of the success of the Air Force family, and hold us together when things get tough. They are the person that stops and asks if everything is OK.

Staff Sgt. Nathan Santiago, in the short time I have known him, has made a very profound impact on me. He is never satisfied by what he has done for others, but by what he can do for others. He constantly searches for ways that he can inspire people to achieve better things, and walks with them throughout each step they take to reach those goals. He makes it known to everyone he comes into contact with that he is there to help if they need it, and because of his sincerity, they often do.

In the last year his influence has been felt not only in our own Detachment, but the base and the local community as well. He runs with everybody in the Detachment, stride for stride, in preparation for PT tests and during PT tests regardless of what the English weather throws at us. He somehow encouraged many of us to run our first half-marathon together, not only inspiring us through every step towards achieving this goal, but also raising more than $500,000 for British charities. Santiago led the Detachment in helping set up the Lakenheath Elementary school classrooms for the 2011-2012 school year, the Airman Thanksgiving turkey drive, and a guided F-15 tour for U.K. wounded warriors.

While volunteering for Lakenheath Liberty patrol, he and another member of our Detachment found an Airman who was unresponsive and administered first aid until help arrived, saving the Airman's life.

Whether he is helping us here at the Detachment, helping our Airmen and base community, or reaching out and helping our host nation, he not only strives to help others, but inspires everyone he meets to just be the one that stops and asks if someone needs help. That is what will get us through the tough times, and truly defines how to be a good wingman.