CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
My first assignment was Ramstein.
The base was a monster of an assignment, especially for fresh-out-of-tech-school Airmen. The work load was incredible, and the pace of the mission meant new Airmen were expected to learn quickly, given little time to adjust. Even more so for 19 year-olds like myself. With this fast-paced mission, stress built easily, and for us dorm residents, you didn’t have a family to go home to. So we had to make our own.
My first year, me and other dorm Airmen set up ping pong tables on Friday and Saturday nights, cleaned up the day rooms on Sundays. When the weather got cold and the holidays came around, we made sure there wasn’t a single brother or sister in their rooms for Thanksgiving or Christmas.
This is why I don’t use the term “wingman.” I prefer “family.”
It was a struggle the first few months. The first year was just a struggle for me. I felt like I was struggling to learn my job and become an adult at the same time. Every day, I arrived at my room feeling like I messed something up at work. And in a building of 96, I felt like I was fighting a battle as a one man army.
Depression hurt. I didn’t think it could impact me and I vehemently denied it when it infested my everyday thoughts. I struggled with this every day until about six months into my first assignment, where I finally took action for myself by helping others. I applied, interviewed and accepted the position of president of my dorm.
From there, I implored myself to try the hardest I could to make this dorm feel like a home for the other 95 Airmen that, for all I knew at the time, could be struggling with the same back and forth of loneliness. Without going into specifics, I explored different ways of getting people out of their rooms for months. I knocked on doors and got phone numbers. I started getting weekend events going on in our day room. The first few weekends were so awkward, because only about four or five of us were there watching movies. I wasn’t disappointed, though; even one person that gets out and about is a difference.
Thanksgiving time was when people started to come out of their shells around Dorm 2418. I had a few friends volunteer to cook, and I got the help of the Key Spouses to ensure no one left the day room that night without two armfuls of leftovers. I and the others who put it on, got a head count of about 57 that showed up at least at one point in the night.
I didn’t have a car, I didn’t have my family, but I got help from a few peers and on-base organizations to gather 57 random strangers to become one big family for one night. And it was from then on I noticed more people doing things together as a family, not as just wingmen or neighbors.
So here at Cannon, my second assignment, I live off-base in Portales. But the concept remains for all the Airmen I have the honor of working with every day who find themselves with a dorm room as a home. If you’re at the dorms at any point in the holidays, don’t feel alone. Knock on doors and ask how people are and what they’re doing for the holidays. I know it’ll feel awkward to some that aren’t accustomed to starting conversations with strangers, but trust me; you’ll find yourself thankful you made your own memories with people who live right next to you. Holidays aren’t for individuals; they’re meant for families.