CMSAF discusses quality-of-life, personnel issues on Capitol Hill

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Rojek
  • Defense Media Activity-Anacostia
The Air Force's top enlisted leader testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee here April 13 about personnel and quality-of-life issues impacting the enlisted force.

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Roy, alongside his sister-service counterparts, highlighted the importance of mental health, transition assistance and educational programs.

While the Air Force has increased the number of mental health providers and implemented pre- and post-deployment assessments, leaders are still trying to defeat the stigma associated with receiving care, the chief said.

One idea being put into practice is collocating mental health providers within family practice clinics, so patients don't have to visit a separate facility, he added.

"One other thing that we have done, just like we've done with chaplains for years ... (is placing) mental technicians and doctors inside our units so that it's easy for a service member to access that particular skill when needed, so that they don't have to go to the clinic," he said.

The enlisted leaders also testified about preparing service members for transition to life as a civilian.

While the Air Force retains about 55 percent of its first-term Airmen, leaders are working hard to ensure a smooth transition for those who separate from active duty, Chief Roy said.

One important focus is education, he said. With the Community College of the Air Force, 100-percent tuition for active-duty members and the Post 9/11 GI Bill, many Airmen transition out of the Air Force with at least an associate's degree.

Another tool for Airmen leaving active duty is the transition assistance program. The mandatory program teaches Airmen skills in areas such as resume writing and interviews.

"This is an area of resources that our Airmen and their families continue to use," Chief Roy said. "It's one that I believe has paid us very well."

During the testimony, the chief was joined by Tech. Sgt. Chris Frost, an explosive ordnance disposal technician who lost both legs below the knee when his vehicle struck a 700-pound improvised explosive device in Iraq in 2008.

Committee members commended Sergeant Frost for his service to the nation, as well as expressed pride in his recent accomplishments.

"Sergeant Frost has since returned to duty, mentored other wounded warriors and cycled 3,500 miles across America," Chief Roy said. "Sergeant Frost inspires us all. It is an absolute pleasure serving with him, and I salute his resiliency."