Flying side by side

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- When an Airman’s car battery dies for the second time in a day, she knows there is someone she can always count on.

Frustrated and worried, she decides to reach out and text her wingman.

Receiving the text, with a sense of urgency a concerned wingman rushes to meet her. The wingman knows that the Airman is babysitting for a single parent on a temporary duty to a Red Flag exercise and cannot be left stranded for long.

Five minutes later the pair are standing in the dark attempting to jump-start the vehicle. After a half hour of tries they succeed. Afterward, the Airman’s companion insists she call her the next morning if her car continues to fail.

This was not the first, or last time, the two would be there for each other.

Senior Airman Andrea Raudales, 609th Air Communications Squadron commander support staff personnelist, and Senior Airman Moriah Garber, 20th Logistics Readiness Squadron CSS personnelist, have been flying side by side as wingmen from the start of their careers. On top of a history of supporting each other, the two have had nearly identical achievements.

Having the same job, the companions are able to share ideas, advise each other and resolve issues. They also use each other’s networks to accomplish their missions even though they work in different CSS offices.

Both Raudales and Garber went to Basic Military Training at the same time, however it was only during their technical training that they would officially meet.

After they both received orders to Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, in the spring of 2014, the two worked at adjacent offices and joined the Shaw Rising Four, a private organization for Airmen E-1 through E-4, together. A year later, Airmen elected Garber the treasurer and Raudales the vice president of the organization.

“She’s part of the reason I initially ran for a position in Rising Four,” said Garber. “She’s pushed me out of my comfort zone to be able to do things like that, and it’s really helped me be able to speak in public and meet new people.”

The coincidences continued to pile up; both Airmen made senior airman below-the-zone and staff sergeant together, supporting each other through each milestone in their careers.

“People always say you’ll have a point in your life when you need to put your hand out and have someone who can reach out and pull you up,” said Garber. “We definitely do that for each other. If one of us has any issues, whether it be personal or work, we’ve always been able to rely on each other. I can go to her for anything.”

Not only do the two help each other at work, but they also maintain resiliency in their personal lives by providing emotional support for each other, talking about stressors and giving advice.

When Garber was having difficulties dealing with a break-up, her wingman was the first person she went to.

“It was a very hard hit for her,” said Raudales. “I told her ‘Hey, if you ever need to talk just let me know, we’ll figure this out.’”

Through it all, they have been there for each other, helping each other grow personally and professionally.

“I think the biggest thing she’s done for me is to push me,” said Raudales. “Knowing she’s going to do her best pushes me to try and do my best.”

Despite not meeting until technical training, their story began in BMT when Trainee Garber would witness Trainee Raudales earn the nickname “Trainee Smiley.” Unbeknownst to both, the wingmanship they would display for each other in the future would give them both plenty of reasons to smile.