BREAK RIGHT!!! How to Survive the Missiles of Life
The keys are self leadership and accountability.
- By Waldo Waldman
- Mar 01, 2007
PICTURE this: It's a crisp, clear spring day and you're
participating on a combat mission in the "no-fly zone" in southern
Iraq. You're flying 550 knots at 22,000 feet with your wingman, who is
2 miles away and exactly 90 degrees to your right. You are both
scanning for enemy aircraft, surface to air missiles (SAMS), and radar
activity. Over half of your time is spent "checking six"--looking
behind you and your wingman to check for unseen threats or movement.
Suddenly, you hear your wingman scream over the radio. "Break right, Break right! Missile launch your 5 O'clock!!"
Your heart jumps and adrenalin rushes through your veins as your fight
or flight reflexes take over. It's time to act and act now!
Instinctively, you crank the stick to the right, bank the aircraft 90
degrees, and pull back as hard as you can as the g forces compress you
back into the seat.
You lower the nose, dispense chaff and flares to help break the
radar lock, and strain your neck while looking behind you to get a
"visual" of the missile. The smoke plume of the missile exhaust becomes
easily visible as you continue the maneuver to avoid its flight path.
Fortunately for you, it detonates 1,000 feet from your aircraft. It
Before you can relish the victory, you realize that you're now "low
and slow"--a perfect target for additional SAMS. Panic ensues once
again as you climb to gain altitude while continuing to scan for
missiles . . . and your wingman! You need to regain mutual support. As
if reading your mind, he calls out on the radio, "Two, your visual is
left 10 O'clock, 3 miles, high!" You focus your eyes and take a deep
breath of relief as you find your wingman on the horizon, rejoin, and
continue the mission. You survived!!
Just another day in the life of a fighter pilot . . . .
What made surviving that attack possible?
1. Without hesitation, you took your wingman's advice when he said "Break right!"
2. You successfully applied the evasive maneuver procedures.
3. Your wingman never lost sight of you.
Each day, you're flying missions at work and at home. They may not
be as intense as combat, but the pressures and threats are real. The
key to winning (and not just surviving) these missions lies with your
wingmen--your trusted partners. And these wingmen can be your
co-workers, your supervisors, your spouse, or your best friend.
Are you aware of the wingmen in your life? Are you backing each
other up, "checking six" for missile launches, and calling out "Break
right" when necessary? Most importantly, when your wingman says "Break
right," will you:
- Heed their call? or,
- Question them, doubt their credibility, or resent them for judging you?
The choice you make in that moment is critical: Heed the call and
avoid getting shot down. Or ignore the warning, and you or someone you
know may get hurt.
As I mentioned in my last column, being a wingman is all about
trust. Trust implies respect, confidence, and even compassion. Not
everyone can be your wingman, and that's why you should choose them
carefully. Being a wingman also implies shared responsibility. You not
only need to listen carefully (and act) when someone says "Break
right," you need to be willing to call it out, as well.
Every day in the world of health and safety, you're placed in
situations where you may need wingmen to help you "fly" more
effectively, gain perspective, and keep your work and home environments
safe. Wingmen help us gain a unique perspective because we often fly
with blinders on. It's easy to become so focused on a project that we
lose sight of the big picture.
A good wingman will recognize when you're not functioning at "maximum performance." They
don't hesitate to call out a "Break right" in order to help you refocus
on the mission and perhaps avoid a potentially deadly threat or safety
hazard. As first responders, construction supervisors, occupational
health nurses, or physicians, it's critical to communicate and back one
another up. It takes a team to get the mission accomplished. You need
to make fast, accurate decisions, and rely on your extensive training
to do the right things instinctively. You can't succeed unless you
trust those working beside you!
The key is self leadership and accountability. It means being open
to feedback and heeding the warning calls that your wingmen may send
you. Then, by taking action (refocusing your attention and adjusting
your flight path), you'll avoid the missiles, get back on target, and
continue the mission safely and effectively.
So I invite you--my fellow wingmen--to look around the skies and
identify the wingmen in your personal and professional lives that may
need to hear you say "Break right!" Just as important, keep an ear out
for their calls, too. Your co-workers, customers, patients, and even
your lives may depend on it.
Push it up!®
This column appeared in the March 2007 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.
This article originally appeared in the March 2007 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.