Tag Archives: help

Continuing the Tradition of “Airmen helping Airmen”

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By Beatriz Swann (CMSgt, Ret)
Air Force Aid Society

I joined the U.S. Air Force in 1979 at the young age of 18. I knew the Air Force would offer opportunities that I would otherwise not have if I stayed in my hometown. What I thought would be a short stay in the military ended up being 33 years of service. I retired as a chief master sergeant in 2012 and began my second career as Emergency Assistance Caseworker with the Air Force Aid Society, supporting Airmen and their families every day.

As a young airman, I knew about the Air Force Aid Society. It came up each year during the Air Force Assistance Fund campaign – I understood AFAS was where to go if you had an emergency financial situation – but that’s really all I knew. Later on, in my supervisory positions, I encouraged my Airmen to use AFAS if they needed it but still did not know the full scope of what AFAS was all about. Continue reading Continuing the Tradition of “Airmen helping Airmen”

Looking out for your wingman during the holidays

By Staff Sgt. Jarrod Chavana
Air Force Public Affairs Agency

111208-F-SM817-001Editor’s Note: This is the first entry in a blog series on dealing with holiday stress, strengthening resiliency and linking Airmen to support networks and resources. Airmen are encouraged to seek help and know that they have an Air Force family ready to listen and provide support in times of need.

The holidays are meant to be cheerful, but for some Airmen it can be the most stressful time of the year. As it is most often a time spent with friends and family, this season can be a magnifier for those individuals with existing emotional or psychological issues.

Although we signed the dotted line and chose this life, it’s never easy to be away from loved ones. In 2009, I spent Christmas deployed to Iraq, while my pregnant wife and family were on the other side of the world. Even though I was able to watch my daughters open presents over the Internet, it wasn’t quite the same. For many Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines, this has become a common place, but for others this can be the last straw.

There are countless reasons why someone may be feeling down. Some common causes could be: this is the first time he or she has been away from home on the holidays, financial problems or relationship issues.

Even though you may converse with your co-workers, do you really know what’s happening to them outside of work? We should be looking after our own throughout the year, especially during the holiday season. Each and every day we should look for warning signs, trying to find out the causes of why someone has become withdrawn or why someone is lashing out. 

Once you recognize that an Airman has a true problem, what next? You should try to talk to him or her, but more importantly – listen. If an Airman does not want to share his or her issues, provide reassurance and information on the various programs available to Airmen and dependents for private mental and spiritual care.

Each base provides mental health counselors. Chaplains and Military One Source are also good options. Base chaplains have a 100 percent confidentiality clause, while Military One Source provides up to 12 off-base counseling sessions per issue at no charge.

Other programs include the Suicide Prevention Line, which has a toll free number 1-800-273-Talk (8255). The Defense Centers of Excellence, available 24/7, is staffed by health resource consultants who provide information, resources and referrals for service members, veterans and their families. They can be reached at 1-866-966-1020 or resources@dcoeoutreach.com.

The holiday season is meant to be a joyous time in our lives, and if you’re feeling overwhelmed and powerless, please remember there is always a military support system.    

PHOTO:: Though Tech Sgt. Sonja Williams, 94th Airlift Wing Airman and Family Readiness specialist, simulates a depressed Airman, holiday depression is real. During this time of the year, people may experience heightened stress, fatigue, financial constraints and loneliness triggered by the holiday season. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Senior Airman Chelsea Smith)

Leaders should walk and talk instead of click and send

Chief Master Sergeant Harold L. Hutchisonby Chief Master Sgt. Harold L. Hutchison
7th Air Force

Recently, I received and reviewed, with great concern, the alarmingly high Air Force suicide rates for fiscal 2012. As of March 27 we have had 30 suicides for the year compared to 23 at this same time last year.

You may be thinking, “Chief, why are you telling me this?” I would respond that I believe one of the many things we as leaders and Airmen can do to reverse this negative trend is employ increased face-to-face communication with your Airmen, to show we care.

Leaders need to get out from behind the desk to visit, mentor and socialize with our Airmen. Communicating in person has always been and still remains extremely important in today’s Air Force.

We have all been ingrained with the definition of leadership. After reading numerous professional military education articles, one could recite a phrase that would probably sound like, “Leadership is the art or the ability of an individual to influence and direct others to contribute toward the effectiveness and success of the organization and its mission.”

There are other ways to describe leadership. Ultimately, leadership is the ability of great leaders to effectively and efficiently lead Airmen to execute the wing’s mission, while making Airmen fully understand and feel their immeasurable contribution to the success of the Air Force’s overall mission. In my humble opinion, that exemplifies true leadership.

Effective personal communication is no small task in the modern military. With units consistently deploying, issues associated with increased family separation, long hours and countless other factors, Airmen may feel a heavy physical and/or mental burden to which no rank is immune.

Within our military culture, we have come to a crossroads with regard to communicating with our folks. Long forgotten is the talent of the one-on-one, face-to-face mentoring that was commonplace in our Air Force of yesterday. Email has certainly expedited the communication process, but it has also hindered, to some degree, the ability and willingness of some of us to get out from behind the desk. It’s taken away from the time we spend with our Airmen because we spend so much time emailing. I’ve seen Airmen send emails to someone 10 feet away from them in the same office. Is this the way we want to communicate with each other in today’s stressful environment?

In a peacetime military atmosphere, relying on email to communicate is sufficient, but a wartime force, with all the demands placed upon it, needs face-to-face communication. An often neglected leadership principle in today’s environment of technology is getting to know your workers and showing sincere interest in their problems, career development and welfare. It’s hard to show someone you really do care about them in an email.

I believe today, more than ever, we need to put more emphasis back on face-to-face communication. Gen. Ronald R. Fogleman, a former Air Force chief of staff, once said, “To become successful leaders, we must first learn that no matter how good the technology or how shiny the equipment, people-to-people relations get things done in our organizations. If you are to be a good leader, you have to cultivate your skills in the arena of personal relations.”

I believe cultivating our inter-personal skills is as simple as just taking the time to talk to your subordinates and get to know them, the things they like and the things they dislike or perhaps about his or her next deployment. Show them you genuinely care for them. A leader who knows his Airmen will be able to recognize when one of them is having problems, either in their personal life or with assigned tasks, and hopefully you will be able to take steps and actions to affect change in the situation. If a leader doesn’t know what normal behavior is from one of his or her Airmen….how will you know what abnormal is?

As the Professional Development Guide states, “Leadership involvement is the key ingredient to maximizing worker performance and hence the mission.” With that said, we need to get out there and lead your Airmen from the front … they deserve good leadership. Finally, the demands of the ongoing war efforts not only need your attention, but require it.

Let’s face it, we cannot provide the leadership required from behind the desk.

Left behind

By Senior Airman Alexandria Mosness
20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

A 4-year old girl with shoulder-length, light-brown hair and big brown eyes sat on the edge of the countertop with her legs dangling over the side, swinging back and forth. A strong man three times her size with hardworking hands touched her gently, and looked at her with tears streaming down his weathered face. “Mommy is not coming back. Mommy is in heaven with Grandpa,” he told her as his voice cracked. The brave little girl reached her tiny hand up to his sad face and wiped away his tears, as she said, “Don’t worry Daddy, it will be okay.”

But it was not okay; her mother, my aunt, had committed suicide only days earlier.Suicide prevention

Everyone has heard about suicide, but many people may not think it will affect them. But I guarantee if you ask around, it hits closer to home than you might think.

Yet, we still believe it won’t be someone we love. I didn’t think I would ever hear the news that my aunt Maria, who was only in her mid-30s, would take her own life.

I was a freshman in high school when I turned around at lunch one day with a smile still fresh on my face from a joke I overhead, when I saw my father’s pain-stricken face. I knew right then something was very wrong.

From then on the moments are a blur. When I look back, all I sense is a heavy dread and pain, a pain that tears deeply each time I look at my little cousin Olivia. Although Maria committed suicide about 8 years ago, it still breaks my heart to think about the life she missed out on.

She, like many people who commit suicide, dealt with depression. The one thing I wish I could have shown her was her funeral and all the people who sat in the pews crying. I wish she would have been able to see her 4-year-old daughter walk down the aisle of the big church, side-by-side with the coffin, and lay a rose on top of her mother’s lifeless body. I wish she would have felt the love of those who cared for her dearly, and those that might have been able to pull her off of that edge.

But my wishes are just that… wishes.

What I don’t want is for you to be the one wishing. Once a loved one takes his or her life, we have no control. We are the survivors, and we are the ones who must keep going.

From the time I began high school and throughout my military career, I have been inundated with computer-based training modules, classes and countless Airmen days on the topic of suicide.

But even with all of this knowledge and available resources, the Air Force battles this issue. Some might not think it can happen to them or someone they know,

So, what can we do to help those in need?

Many may think it is cliché, but I always smile at everyone. I always think especially since I am a survivor, what if that one act brings them back. Maybe it is not that simple, but kindness does go a long way.

We are always told to be good wingmen. This goes hand-in-hand with improving our resiliency. When you see your co-worker down or acting different, pull him or her aside. See what is wrong. A lot of times, all people need is someone to talk to.

If someone comes and tells you of a plan to hurt him or herself, don’t laugh it off. The person is reaching out to you. Listen and then help find the assistance he or she may need.

Social media is huge these days. We may take what our friends say online as a joke or not take them seriously, but if you start noticing a trend or something that makes you raise your eyebrows, do something about it. Heck, it might not be anything, but how would you feel if you found out later that person had harmed him or herselves? You truly can save lives.

There will always be challenges in this world, but if we all take that extra step and treat people like valued human-beings, maybe we can stop losing our Air Force family to this dreadful thing.

I know that if we had seen the warning signs, my little cousin would not be walking around on Easter grasping a picture of her mother because she missed her, but instead holding her hand and celebrating the joyous moments in life.

Photo: (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class Corey Hook)