Thin ice

  • Published
  • By Col. "Tip" Stinnette
  • 39th Air Base Wing commander
In New Jersey, a high school student accidentally dropped his cell phone from the Dorset Avenue Bridge. Fortunately the river had frozen over, so the phone landed on the ice, apparently intact. To a dedicated cell phone user, losing one's phone is like losing an appendage. And what loyal friend would not try to retrieve your arm or leg if it had somehow fallen off a bridge and landed on thin ice?

The survival of our species depends on mutual support. Two days later, Bruce, 17, volunteered to fetch the phone. He figured the ice, which was only an inch thick in places, was strong enough to hold him for the rescue mission. Another friend urged Bruce to give up and go back to shore. "I can do it," Bruce insisted.

A bridge attendant also warned him to stay off the ice, but, as his mother explained, "It's just something Bruce would have done." The attendant rushed to his post to call the police. He was on the phone when a bystander told him someone had fallen in. An officer arrived at the scene moments later to find Bruce partially submerged in the 35-degree water. The officer dashed to his car for a rescue buoy. When he returned, Bruce had already gone under. Bruce did not die in vain. The cell phone was recovered.
The survival of our species depends upon smart, mutual support. The case above illustrates a Wingman who literally got in over his head. Perhaps a Flight Lead would have made all the difference.

Speaking of phones, I don't think we use them enough when it really counts. I know that I have talked about this before, but it is helpful to reiterate the point every now and then. I am sure many of us have been party to what I call the AMRAAM effect otherwise known as "fire and forget." When was the last time you heard someone say, "well I sent them an e-mail" in response to a question along the lines of "why isn't so-and-so here?" My guess is each of us has heard this line all too often. This is the tyranny of supporting our geographically separated units. We trade confusing digital e-mails in the place of clear analog phone calls. We seek digital machine-to-machine interface instead of analog people-to-people discussion.

Now I am certainly not advocating going out on thin ice to recover a cell phone, but I am advocating the use of a phone instead of a computer when it is usually a mere few inches from your keyboard.

There is nothing like the full-body contact of person-to-person discussion. In Bruce's case, how many people could have saved him from the thin ice before he stepped out on it? In the case of our GSUs, how many times could we have solved a problem before it became a problem if we had just picked up the phone? Every now and then analog contact will clarify digital confusion, and at the end of the day clarity is a key component of ensuring freedom's future.