Flying Solo offers opportunities, friendship for single Airmen

  • Published
  • By Alessandra N. Hurley
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Airmen gather at the Airman Ministry Center every Tuesday evening, as part of the Flying Solo program offered by the chapel to discuss single life and the importance of spiritual growth to become stronger Airmen.

Leading the group discussions is Doyle Spader, known to the group as Mr. D, who has been working with military chaplains for approximately 30 years.

"The primary focus of Flying solo is to help single Airmen grow spiritually," Mr. D said. "It is called the 'Flying Solo Action Group' because we stress not only growth in spiritual knowledge, but also the application of that knowledge, before others, through our actions."

Flying Solo offers new Airmen an opportunity to become better Airmen by learning to put service before self and to connect with other Airmen. It also provides various volunteering opportunities to connect with the community, said Mr. D.

"We hope, in the future, to give by serving those who have needs," Mr. D said. "In the past we have worked to help families on the Pine Ridge reservation by repairing homes, hauling wood and purchasing electrical heaters to provide warmth to families in the cold, collecting food and clothes for distribution, and helping with their needs in transportation."

Senior Airman David Carter, 28th Maintenance Squadron aerospace ground equipment mechanic and Senior Airman Christopher Randall, Air Force Financial Service Center relocations technician, have both attended Flying Solo and say it's also a good way for single Airmen to connect and make friends.

"When I first arrived at Ellsworth as a single Airman living in the dorms, I didn't have too many friends," Airman Carter said. "Flying Solo helps Airmen who may be away from home for the first time meet new people and find a sense of family in a comfortable environment."

Airman Randall said the meetings helped him adjust to a new base in a variety of ways.

"I'm from Texas and I understood being here in South Dakota was going to be a big change for me, from the weather to the type of people I would meet," Airman Randall said. "Not only did Flying Solo help me make new and awesome friends, these meetings have helped me be more mature, make better decisions and decide how I should pursue my options in the Air Force. Attending the Flying Solo meetings motivates me to get out and make the world better... the discussions and friendship I've experienced even helped me to be more faithful, loving, kind and caring toward others."

Some of the topics of conversation held at the meetings include DUIs and suicides here at Ellsworth.

"People tend to slip and do bad things," Airman Randall said. "The main topics discussed at some of the first meetings were Airmen's issue with DUIs and other destructive behaviors. Suicide seemed to be a big thing, too. I wanted to help solve the problem and at the meetings, we discuss the importance of friendship and service to others as a means of eliminating these issues."

Airmen Carter, Randall and Mr. D encourage any Airman who would like to participate in the meetings to join them for good food, good company and conversation.

"Mr. D is an excellent cook," Airman Carter said. "He also connects really well with the new Airmen living in the dorms because of all his experience working with single Airmen and Soldiers over the years. He's just a guy you can talk to... almost like a father figure in some ways."

Mr. D accepts this leadership role with the recognition that to be a good leader, one must first know how to be a good servant.

"When you learn to serve, you learn to lead," Mr. D said. "A leader is a servant first. When the needs of others are your primary focus, you will be a successful leader. It is primary to teach young Airmen to recognize people have a variety of needs. If Airmen can find ways to address those needs, people will be grateful and follow."

Flying Solo benefits Airmen, not only by affording them opportunities to grow as leaders through service to others and to make lifelong friends, but also by helping them to feel better about themselves, and (as a result), be better Airmen, said Mr. D.

"We have learned that we are the happiest when we are giving to others rather than being recipients," Mr. D said. "Any time we can focus on others rather than ourselves we gain a greater sense of well-being. My hope for the Flying Solo program is to help young Airmen get adjusted and be well rounded."