Senior leaders testify on health of personnel programs

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jess Harvey
  • Air Force Public Affairs
Air Force senior leaders, along with counterparts from each of the services, testified about the current state of military personnel programs before the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee April 24.

Daniel B. Ginsberg, assistant secretary of the Air Force for Manpower and Reserve Affairs and Lt. Gen. Darrell D. Jones, deputy chief of staff for Manpower, Personnel and Services, discussed myriad topics including sexual assault response programs, suicide rates and the effects sequestration is having on personnel programs within the military.

"The Air Force remains committed to providing cost-effective medical care, services and programs that maintain balanced, healthy and resilient Airmen and families," said Ginsberg. "Initiatives implemented by our Airmen and family readiness centers, such as transition assistance, wounded warrior, yellow ribbon and suicide prevention programs, have made considerable progress."

He noted that this past year, Air Force senior leadership has confronted the problem of sexual assault issues at basic military training, and strengthened sexual assault prevention efforts with new initiatives that included an Air Force-wide health and welfare inspection and the establishment of a Special Victims Counsel program.

They emphasized the fact that the establishment of the Special Victims Counsel and the Chief of Staff called in every wing commander to specifically look them in the eye and urge them to 'get after' sexual assault shows how seriously leadership takes this issue.

"The Air Force remains steadfast in our commitment to prevent incidents of sexual assault, provide victim care where assaults have occurred and hold those who commit such acts accountable," said Ginsberg.

But sexual assault isn't the only threat facing the health and welfare of the total force. Jones also warned the committee members of the toll the ongoing budget crisis is taking on the Air Force.

"You have to remember that morale is also a part of the mission. We have very proud Airmen who are very proud of what they do every day," said Jones.

As sequestration weakens Air Force readiness, and cuts programs and flying hours, morale of the force starts to decline, he said.

Jones also pointed out many civilian Airmen are military spouses and one concern is furloughs will hurt the joint income of families.

As Airmen and their families move forward, sequestration leaves families uncertain about the future. This uncertainty affects them personally and professionally, said Jones.

Of particular concern throughout the services, especially in these trying times, is the suicide rate within the military. And, according to Jones, Air Force leaders are keenly aware of the problem and are taking proactive steps to address this issue.

"One of the things we've done that's innovative is we've started embedding our mental health providers in the primary care facilities...down where you go for sick call," said Jones.

That way, according to Jones, if an Airman is talking with their doctor and they think there might be a mental health issue, the doctor can walk the Airman across the hall to be evaluated instead of sending him to a separate clinic and no one outside of the clinic knows, giving them time to be evaluated without the perception of being branded.

Despite the uncertainty and difficulties we face, Ginsberg said "our Airmen, have met every challenge and are poised to respond to these new challenges in the future." He also emphasized "the Air Force remains committed to providing cost-effective medical care, services and programs to maintain balanced, healthy, and resilient Airmen and families."