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Connect, Detect and Protect: the theme of our latest Wingman Day.

U.S. Air Force Capt. Raychel Bates, 93rd Air Refueling Squadron’s assistant director of operations, tells her story at a Wingman Day Storytellers event Nov. 20, 2020, on Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington. Storytellers originated out of Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, and has grown to become an event held at many Air Force bases all over the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Michelle Chang)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Raychel Bates, 93rd Air Refueling Squadron’s assistant director of operations, tells her story at a Wingman Day Storytellers event Nov. 20, 2020, on Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington. Storytellers originated out of Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, and has grown to become an event held at many Air Force bases all over the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by 2nd Lt. Michelle Chang)

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. --

I’m a big fan of creating and fostering genuine human connections with my coworkers up, down and laterally on the chain of command. I’ve witnessed firsthand, as provider and recipient, that connectedness allows us to detect when someone . . . isn’t quite right; and that detection helps protect our Airmen and their families from internal and external stressors/threats. I live each day believing that we’re all people, doing our best, and we just need to remember to care and be kind to ourselves and to others.

So you can understand my excitement when Col Bentley called me up one evening and asked me to be a speaker during Fairchild’s first Storytellers event. I had provided my testimony of resilience at my previous base, Royal Air Force Mildenhall, UK, while Col Bentley was the Vice Wing Commander and apparently I’d made an impression! In fact, I’ve probably “told” my story over 50 times prior to Friday’s event: in small groups, in PA videos, in the jet during long oceanic crossings, one-on-one conversations, you get it. 

But I have never jammed my story into 20 minutes while 90 sets of eyeballs stared at me, twice in a day. Ooohh buddy.

The specifics of my story were never that important. The fact that I told my story, is. That fact that folks voluntarily stayed after a mandatory event to chat with myself and the other storytellers, is. The fact that we’re fostering a base community of connectedness, is. The fact that at least one person felt that they were not alone, is. That’s what is important.

I’m honored and humbled to have shared my story, receive head nods, giggles, “mmhhhhmmmmms”, and form candid connections with folks in the audience in return. Although it was thoroughly intimidating, I would do this every Friday, over and over again, until everyone understands that we’re all connected, and that everyone goes through rough patches in life. No one has to tackle life alone.

Even though Wingman Day is over, the importance of connectedness is not. Come find me if you want to chat. Really really.