Like fighter pilots on combat missions over hostile territory, roofing contractors are never alone when it truly comes to making critical decisions and operational success. True, life-and-death situations thousands of feet in the air may seem more dramatic than standing on a rooftop, but doing it right the first time — maybe the only time — is just as important to both. And it doesn’t happen without a good wingman.

That was the thrust of Lt. Col. Rob “Waldo” Waldman’s remarks to kick-off IRE 2017 in Las Vegas as he delivered the keynote address Wednesday morn-ing at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. The event was sponsored by Malarkey Roofing Products.

Waldman, the highly-decorated U.S. Air Force combat pilot, now retired, turned his post-aviation life into a successful, award-winning career as a business consultant and motivational speaker. 

He wasted no time drawing on his combat experi-ence to lure the roomful of roofing contractors and professionals into his world — strapping them into the cockpit of his F-16 as he prepared to launch for a rescue mission over Serbia for a pilot shot down by a surface-to-air-missile. 

Using actual video and audio clips of pilots managing stressful situations, Waldman fired up the crowd and conveyed what it was like to prepare for the mission to save his colleague behind enemy lines.

“The blood drains from your face and your heart starts to pound. You’re petrified,” he said. “Because in 45 minutes you’re about to take off in that jet and fly amongst the threat and if you don’t get that fear pulsing through your veins under control real quick, you’re going to let down that soldier.”

Waldman completed the mission, thanks to his wingmen that helped him evade threatening fire from the ground, and they rescued the commander. He happened to be current Gen. David L. Goldfein, recently appointed as the U.S. Air Force’s chief of staff.

“You never know the lives of people that you’ll impact,” he said, to a loud ovation of claps and cheers. “One thing I learned flying fighters and defending this country is that you can’t do it alone.”

To relate the experience to roofing contractors, Waldman spent the bulk of his time talking about commitment, which he breaks down into four categories:

  1. Commitment to Excellence
  2. Commitment to the Mission
  3. Commitment to the Team
  4. Commitment to courage

“Complacency kills,” he said. “I refuse to become complacent. And by living this way, I think the awards, accolades, and successes will naturally come. I believe we have to earn our wings every day.  Yesterday’s success doesn’t guarantee tomorrow’s success. We have to get out there and sweat, build, and grow.”