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Taking the point

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Have you heard the honking? I don't mean the painful and sometimes alarming rasp of a car horn, but rather the distinctive honk of geese flying overhead. My home state of South Dakota is a natural flyway for thousands upon thousands of geese flying south for the winter - Snow, Blues and Canadian honkers. I remember driving out to a nearby lake to take in the sights and sounds of these magnificent birds.

What impresses me most about the flight of geese is the way they fly in a "V" formation. I love the sound and motion of a flock of geese high above against a crisp, painted sky. Besides being an artistic expression of nature, there's an additional lesson in the flight of geese.

Two engineers calibrated the formation of geese in a wind tunnel and found that each goose, flapping its wings, creates uplift for the goose that follows. Significantly, the whole flock gains 71 percent greater flying range than if they journeyed alone. That's why the leader of the "V" formation falls back periodically to let another leader take the point, and why the rest stay in line.

The truth of this is obvious: it's harder to go it alone. No one was created to be a loner and live in isolation. We need each other, sometimes even "taking the point" in life, in the home, our communities and the workplace. Each of us has a special gift, a talent or a service that is vital to the formation and flight pattern of our "flock" and we must use it to that end. In our Air Force culture we call it being a "wingman" and, taking a lesson from the geese, we find it to be an uplifting experience!