HomeNewsArticle Display

Connectedness key to defeating the enemy

Recently, various members of the Air Force Civil Engineer Center at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., gathered in small groups as part of the mandatory Tactical Pause initiative.

Members of the Air Force Civil Engineer Center gather in a small group as part of the mandatory tactical pause initiative Sept. 5, 2019, at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. With 78 suspected Total Force deaths as of July, 29 2019 by suicide compared to 51 in 2018, the Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein, directed all units to implement a Resilience Tactical Pause. The primary focus of the initiative was to strengthen connections and support one another. (U.S. Air Force photo by David Ford)

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) --

The enemy gains its power in a silent world, and the recent results are becoming increasingly loud.

The Air Force loses more Airmen to this enemy than to combat. So far in 2019, nearly 80 Airmen have made the choice to end their lives. At the current pace, the total could reach 150-160 by the close of the year.

The enemy is hopelessness.

For Tyndall Air Force Base, identifying the enemy has taken on a heightened sense of urgency since Hurricane Michael’s landfall on Oct. 10, 2018. The storm not only leveled the base, it also wreaked havoc on the lives of Airmen, civilian employees and family members displaced and impacted. Since then, the struggle to recover has not only been a physical one, but increasingly mental and emotional as well.

“We are dealing with the aftermath of a horrendous storm, but I also believe the Air Force is dealing with a lot of ‘storms’ that have the capacity to knock us out if we don’t change our approach to the issue of hopelessness, connectedness, camaraderie,” said Karen White, Air Force Civil Engineer Center Judge Advocate Office staff attorney.

In August, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein, directed all units to implement a Resilience Tactical Pause. The primary focus of the initiative was to strengthen connections and share the load in supporting one another. The AFCEC team at Tyndall AFB began a program of small group tactical pauses designed to reconnect teammates and build resiliency.

“It’s important to encourage others and look out for signs; not just the obvious ones we are always told about,” said Lt. Col. James Duke, AFCEC Readiness Directorate deputy director. “Being in the military is stressful. With deployments, PCS’s and regular job stressors tied in, it can be overwhelming. The key is to find ways to overcome these stresses and provide connectedness with those around you.”

Tom Adams, AFCEC mechanical engineer, said the stress caused by Hurricane Michael is the core of his day-to-day struggles, which include financial worries, the inability to focus on work assignments and the constant agitation of always having hurricane recovery tasks to perform.

“None of us know why we took a direct hit by a Category 5 hurricane,” Adams said. “But I believe we will come out of this stronger and more resilient than ever.”

According to Col. Timothy Dodge, AFCEC deputy director, when the drive into, and away from work each day involves seeing the same dense piles of trash and debris that have now been lying around for over a year, it tends to wear on the strongest of individuals. Adding to that mountain of stress, is the seemingly endless routine of trying to pick up the pieces of what was once whole.

“There’s the daily grind of going to my house after work, taking off during work to take care of things, working late at night to make up for that, so to speak,” Dodge said. “We’re always getting the work done, but how do you juggle it all – and it winds up being a full day of work and home repair. It’s extremely trying to do that day after day after day.”

Day after day – it’s the routine, not only for those recovering from Hurricane Michael by traveling to their homes from rental properties in some cases more than an hour away, but also those who struggle in silence because of workplace and personal stereotypes and expectations.

“In my 30-plus years with the Air Force as active duty and as a civilian, I worked very hard to keep up the facade that things were OK … even when they weren’t,” White said.

Each day, Dodge walks the AFCEC building in an effort to make contact with as many individuals as he can – to talk to them, get to know them. It’s a noble task to try and reach everyone.

“I don’t think it matters what environment you’re in, you need to be aware, you need to know your people in order to care about what’s going on with your people,” Dodge said. “This is where leadership by walking around comes in, which I try to do a lot – don’t always get to everyone unfortunately.”

Leaving oneself open to criticism among peers and members of leadership is yet another contributing factor that feeds the idea of not quite measuring up to the standard. According to Duke, leaning on loved ones is an effective route to finding support.

“I think it’s more of a feeling of vulnerability. How you interact with family is usually different than with coworkers,” he said. “By showing vulnerability in the military, it might give the impression that you’re weak. Whereas if you show your family that you’re vulnerable, your family would have a tendency to help you through it.”

Although the idea of seeking help is becoming more widely accepted, there remains an old-school mentality that pride and toughness are the pillars of fighting through mental and emotional adversity.

“I think the societal stigma that still exists surrounding mental health also plays into the issue,” White said. “It is not just in the Air Force that people resist mental health care because they fear that the ramifications will be more than what they can ‘afford.’ When our cultural norm is that if you are experiencing a mental health issue you go see a professional who can assist, I think that people will begin to seek help before they get to a place of helplessness and hopelessness.”

Breaking the ice, forming small groups to venture outside the workplace to manifest connections and no longer suffering in silence – those were just some of the objectives of the tactical pause. In an area where the healing process is organically playing itself out on a daily basis, the initiative represents a giant leap in the right direction.

“Hurricane Michael made this even more impactful for us. I’ve heard that from several people,” Dodge said. “Having this tactical pause has opened the conversation.”

Engage

Twitter
F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to the 18th Aggressor Squadron @EielsonAirForce takeoff in support of exercise Valia… https://t.co/cf0raGgEUD
Twitter
RT @USAF_ACC: "This test, and others like it, can shape the future of the MQ-9, as we continue to increase its relevance in great power com…
Twitter
"We cannot rest on our laurels. It is all about the people, folks, and they will guarantee our readiness, and are f… https://t.co/BsNDUSw0wE
Twitter
RT @USAFCENT: USAFCENT Airmen and coalition partners are executing missions of national, regional and global importance and Exercise Desert…
Twitter
In March 2019, @AFSpecOpsCmd received its first Block 30 AC-130J Ghostrider gunship. Referred to as “the ultimate b… https://t.co/V9FoDThYRQ
Twitter
As the Joint Force transitioned from a Continuous Bomber Presence posture in the Indo-Pacific theater to a Dynamic… https://t.co/u8JlA3GaeF
Twitter
As of August 2020, The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, aka Hurricane Hunters, has flown 64 missions into 12 s… https://t.co/CFtHJ8HDXG
Twitter
.@AFGlobalStrike tackled B-1B readiness issues head-on by readying the fleet with a roadmap to recovery over a 2-yr… https://t.co/dEfZemGKbb
Twitter
As we celebrate 73 years of the U.S. Air Force, we remember the heroes we are proud to have served with. Today we… https://t.co/3pdHX3DvIn
Twitter
Flying, fighting and winning since 1947. #USAF73 https://t.co/qM28ykPZwt
Twitter
RT @AF_Academy: Proud to fly the @usairforce flag today and every day! Happy 73rd Birthday! #YourAcademy #FamilyWeek https://t.co/hOIs1ghq7M
Twitter
RT @GenCQBrownJr: Today we honor the #heroes who knew the worst of war and the agony of captivity - those who fought for and lost their fre…
Twitter
RT @ArmyMateriel: Join us in wishing a Happy Birthday to our brothers and sisters in the United States Air Force! #DYK The Air Force was…
Twitter
RT @JBABdc: Happy 73rd birthday, @usairforce! The USAF Band and Honor Guard were thrilled to help kick off the celebration on Fox & Friends…
Twitter
RT @AFSAHQ: Happy Birthday to the world's greatest @UsAirForce ! 73 years of excellence, service and sacrifice. Thank you to all the #Air
Twitter
RT @97AMW: Happy 73rd birthday @usairforce! As we celebrate today, we honor the heroism of our Airmen, past and present, who have been the…
Twitter
RT @53rdWRS: Special birthday shoutout to @usairforce! 73 never looked so good! What better way to celebrate than by flying another missio…
Facebook
The newest Air Force Podcast recently dropped. Listen to a small snippet of CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright talk with Staff Sgt. New about resiliency. Listen to the entire podcast on Youtube: https://go.usa.gov/xpnAD or Subscribe to The Air Force Podcast on iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/the-air-force-podcast/id1264107694?mt=2
Facebook
Our mantra, "Always ready!" It's the spirit we fly by! #B2Tuesday
Facebook
Need some motivation to get your week started off right? Listen as CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright weighs in...
Facebook
The U.S. Air Force Academy gives its cadets some unique opportunities. Ride along one of this opportunities.
Facebook
A United States Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-22 Raptor over northern Iraq, Nov. 6, 2019. U.S. Central Command operations deter adversaries and demonstrate support for allies and partners in the region. (Video by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)
Facebook
Although the Silver Star is the third-highest military medal, it's not given often. Today, TSgt Cody Smith was the 49th Special Tactics Airman to receive this medal since Sept. 11th, 2001. Read more of TSgt Smith's amazing story: https://www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2024815/special-tactics-airman-battled-through-injuries-awarded-silver-star/fbclid/IwAR2LZWwx1VHdTnQe39rIEBOuJS_0JvMQBBGt7I-E6zsxxn-Lx9387yu43Bc/ Cannon Air Force Base Air Force Special Operations Command United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
Facebook
Tune in as our Air Force musicians along with other military musicians are awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Facebook
Like Us
Twitter
1,280,182
Follow Us