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Aldrich challenges Airmen: Learn about your wingmen

Paul Aldridge, 50th Space Wing Small Business Programs director

Official photo of Paul Aldridge, 50th Space Wing Small Business Programs director

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --

When I was asked to provide a commentary I was overwhelmed and not sure what to write about.  Then it hit me, does anyone know where I was born or the rest of my story?

We speak of being a good wingman, to me it’s more than being aware of your coworkers – it’s trying to get to know the people we pass all the time, whether walking to the clinic, dining facility, restricted area, fitness center or just in the hallway. I often stop and think, “How is their day going?” I try to say, “Hello,” “Good morning,” or offer a simple greeting to everyone I pass.

What amazes me is I seem to startle people by acknowledging them with a greeting. When I played hockey (I love the sport), my coaches taught me to keep the stick on the ice and my head up. At Schriever, too often it seems our sticks are in the air and our heads are down.

I try to get to know people and learn the rest of their stories, where they come from, and what motivates them. I’ve learned some interesting things about people here at Schriever. For example, do you know the lady in the contracting office who is the mother of six children and two are twins? Have you met the person in the information protection office who was an Army cook and former professional golf instructor? Do you know the guy in manpower who was in a critical biking accident a couple of years ago or the person at the base fitness center who is a cancer survivor? 

To me, being a good wingman involves more than saying, “Hello,” and sharing coffee. It means that sometimes we sit and listen to each other’s stories and learn what motivates them. Too many times we are so caught up in our own lives that we forget others may need an ear. I challenge you to get to know the rest of their stories whoever they are.

So, where was I born? I was born in the bathroom of the house I grew up in, where I spent 19 years before joining the military. My father delivered me, I guess I was in a rush to get here, but lucky for all of us, I have an older brother and my parents had some inclination of what to do.

As our lives change, so do our stories. I learned my story is changing: after more than 10 years at Schriever I was selected as the Air Force Space Command director of small business and will relocate to Building 1 at Peterson Air Force Base. This is not good-bye, instead, “I will see you when our paths cross again.”