BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. (AFNS) --
More than 2.7 million American service members, including nearly 520,000 from the U.S. Air Force, deployed abroad on more than 5.4 million deployments from 2001-2018, according to a study by the Rand Corporation. Airmen were deployed for nearly 1.3 million of those 5.4 million deployments, often to combat zones like Afghanistan and Iraq.
Among those who deployed, more than 52,000 U.S. service members were physically injured in recent military conflicts, and another 500,000 are living with invisible wounds ranging from depression to post-traumatic stress disorder including 320,000 with brain trauma, according to the Wounded Warrior Project.
For Airmen who may be among those who have physical or invisible wounds, The Air Force Wounded Warrior Program, or AFW2, is available to provide care and support. What is AFW2?
AFW2 is a "Congressionally-mandated and federally-funded organization tasked with taking care of U.S. Air Force wounded, ill and injured Airmen, Guardians, veterans and their families,” according to the AFW2 website. They provide personalized, restorative care throughout a Warrior’s journey back to duty, separation or retirement. The goal is to leave those enrolled in the program well-equipped to manage challenges, regardless of injury or illness.
AFW2 works together with the Air Force Survivor Assistance Program, Airman and Family Readiness Centers and the Air Force Medical Service to provide concentrated non-medical care and support for wounded, ill and injured Airmen, Guardians (and their families) as they recover and transition back to duty or into civilian life. The Air Force defines a wounded warrior as “any Airman who is seriously wounded, ill or injured that may require a Medical Evaluation Board/Physical Evaluation Board to determine fitness for duty.”
“The Air Force Wounded Warrior Program is here to help you, even if your incident results in you being permanently retired,” said Selina Lyle, AFW2 recovery care coordinator. “We will provide you information, resources and personalized assistance as needed. Do not hesitate to call us for answers to questions or to help deal with issues as they arise. We are here to provide the care beyond duty you deserve.”
More than 8,400 wounded warriors, their families or caregivers are being supported by the AFW2 Program, Lyle said. The number continues to grow as more wounded warriors are enrolled and she said the program is asking for help in identifying those who may qualify for the program.
Lyle said Airmen and Guardians who qualify for the AFW2 program include those who are, or were, seriously ill or injured, very seriously ill or injured and those with highly complex medical conditions; service members who were or are diagnosed with service-connected, or in-the-line-of-duty PTSD, TBI or military sexual trauma, who have been referred or are likely to be referred through the Medical Evaluation Board process; Purple Heart recipients; or Air Reserve Component members who are retained for more than six months on Title 10 medical orders, or Airmen and Guardians who are returned to Title 10 orders for deployment-related conditions.
Anyone can refer an Airman into the AFW2 program by visiting the AFW2 website and clicking the “Refer and Airman or Guardian” icon and filling out the form and submitting it through the AFW2 website.
One critical aspect of the AFW2 program is the Wellness and Resiliency Program.
“The Warrior Care Division at AFPC is charged with providing non-medical care management and personalized support to Air Force Wounded Warriors,” said Col. Richard L. Obert, AFW2 director. “The Wellness and Resiliency team work with all programs within AFW2 to help strengthen the mental, social, spiritual, and physical domains of the Comprehensive Airman Fitness Model for our warriors and their caregivers enrolled in our program.”
“We do this through both virtual and in-person CARE events, as well as teaching classes, connecting through social media platforms, and providing personalized support to those who are at high risk and are struggling with maintaining their resiliency,” he said. “We are always researching new ideas that we can incorporate into the classes we offer. We understand that wellness and resiliency comes in many different forms.”
Obert said that some of the classes offered to warriors, caregivers and staff include, but are not limited to: ASIST (applied suicide intervention skills training), SafeTALK (suicide alertness for everyone), Mental Health First Aid (understanding how to help those that struggle with mental health issues), MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality inventory), Journal to the Self (14 different journaling techniques), Improv (resilience through comedy), Rock 2 Recovery (writing and creating music), Photography (learning to view your world through a lens), Yoga (focus on harmony between mind and body), Meditation (awareness and having a healthy perspective on life), Mindfulness (focus on being present on the here and now), Origami (the art of paper folding), Art (everything from painting to bookbinding), Art Journaling (expression by combining art and the written word), My Intent (connection through self- reflection and meaningful conversations), Tai Chi (gentle exercises designed to keep your body in constant motion), Com-Motion Dance (dance movement for all abilities), Zentangle (an artform to enhance relaxation and focus), and Goal Setting (mapping out your journey to recovery).
“Quality of care for wounded warriors remains a priority for Air Force leadership,” Obert said. “The Air Force has and continues to honor the sacrifices of wounded Airmen, Guardians, their families and or caregivers by providing the best medical and non-medical professional support throughout their recovery process.”
To contact AFW2, email email@example.com or call 800-581-9437.
Other helpful resources include:
Airman and Family Readiness Centers - This on-base resource ensures Airmen and their families connect with effective assistance services on and off base.
Military Crisis Hotline - Access 24/7 immediate, confidential crisis support at 1-800-273-8255.
Military OneSource - This comprehensive DOD resource provides health and wellness resources and confidential help, including connecting to specialized peer support groups and Military and Family Life Counseling. www.militaryonesource.mil
Military Treatment Facility - These on-base facilities provide direct health and wellness care for Airmen, Air Force retirees, and their families.
Chaplain Services - Chaplains provide confidential care and counseling, a listening ear, guidance, and religious support. www.chaplaincorps.af.mil