Airmen at Travis Air Force Base in California have engaged in an increasingly strange series of training exercises that range from three-legged 5k runs to a life-size game of Hungry Hungry Hippos. The events take place on a day of training dedicated to “building camaraderie” and refining soldiers team-building skills.
“Wingman day” is a quarterly event that focuses on “what it means to be and Airman for one another” and was designed to build bonds between airmen, according to a 2013 press release. A 2013 press release released the following statement explaining the purpose of Wingman day and the odd training exercises executed on that day:
“Airmen launch into a life-size version of ‘Hungry Hungry Hippos’ as part of a team building experience during Wingman Day activities, The Wingman Day program provides training, and hands-on participation exercises for Airmen and front line supervisors to enhance their ability to recognize and effectively intervene with other Airmen in distress, utilizing the PRESS (Prepare, Recognize, Engage, Send, and Sustain) model.”
Master Sgt. Scott Moore. explains that the exercises not only teach team building skills but are also an outlet for the stress and frustrations that accompany the duties of a service member. He stated in an interview:
“Wingman day truly is about watching out for the ones around you, We are using team-related fitness events to foster teamwork while having fun at the same time.”
A VA hospital was criticized last year for engaging in a similar exercise. Critics argued that, unlike Airmen that are deployed to combat zones, the team-building and anti-stress properties of the game are not applicable to employees of the VA hospital.
Watch the video below see what the “Hungry Hungry Hippo” game in action actually looks like. Note that these are not the airmen.