Airmen and their families visit booths during Suicide Prevention Field Day Sept. 23, 2010, at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. Various base agencies hosted the event that focused on the ability of one person to save another's life simply by being there. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Tristin English)
Senior Airman Mark Rosone climbs up an inflatable slide at Suicide Prevention Field Day Sept. 23, 2010, at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. The obstacle course pitted squadron against squadron with the goal of getting the fastest team time. Airman Rosone is a member of the 375th Comptroller Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Tristin English)
by Senior Airman Samantha S. Crane
375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
9/29/2010 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFNS) -- Leaders of the 375th Air Mobility Wing highlighted the importance of the wingman concept to prevent suicides during a day-long Suicide Prevention Field Day Sept. 23.
Officials from various base agencies hosted the event and helped Airmen focus on their ability to save another's life simply by being there.
"We have to help people deal with stress," said Col. Michael Hornitschek, 375th AMW commander. "That's one of the goals of comprehensive airman fitness: to give Airmen and their families the tools to deal with the unique stressors that sometimes accompany military service. Lives are saved every single day by wingmen."
Air Force wide, suicides are up 44 percent compared to last year. In 2009, there were 25 cases. From January to August this year alone, there have been 36. Risk factors for those who may be contemplating suicide include stress stemming from relationships, finances, legal action, heightened operations tempo and extended time away from family.
The topic of suicide can be a somber one, so members of the hosting agencies came up with some creative ways to teach members about risk factors and what they can do as wingmen to help.
As participants arrived, they received a bingo card filled with agencies such as the Airman and family readiness center, mental health office and chapel.
Completed cards were turned in and submitted for a raffle to receive a basket of prizes to go toward a night on the town. Helping agencies also sponsored game booths and facilitated a team obstacle course. After teams made it to the end of the course, a facilitator spoke about how working together to overcome the challenge is similar to working together to prevent suicide.
"The best thing you can do is care," said Col. Kevin Webb, the 375th AMW vice commander.
9/30/2010 8:50:39 PM ET I have no doubt that Scott AFB and other officials wish sincerely to prevent each and every suicide if possible. However leaders continue to rely on the same old tactics to combat this challenge, Safety or Suicide Prevention Down Days, command videos with talking heads narrating, mandatory computer-based training and briefings at base theaters. A simple look at the numbers and trends shows what we've BEEN doing is not working anymore. Bottom line is the military in general is over-stressed, over-tasked and simply tired of leaving families behind, losing comrades and seeing the horrors of war. Those who get out find the economic grass isn't greener on the other side. Those who stay count themselves lucky if the wife at their retirement is the wife they started out with. Let's commission Tiger Teams or similar groups made up of different ranks and specialties, mental health specialists and mixed in with a few suicide survivors. People who came back from the brink.