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Putting face on prevention training

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas (AFNS) -- The Air Force recently changed its annual suicide prevention training from a computer-based (CBT) course to face-to-face training.

The new, in-person training, which went into effect Feb. 11, 2015, replaces the annual computer-based training for active-duty and Reserve Airmen, while civilians have the option to attend the face-to-face training or complete the CBT.

The goal is to have all Airmen attend face-to-face training by the end of 2015.

“The Air Force Community Action Information Board and the Air Force Learning Council directed this change in format to enhance the effectiveness of suicide prevention training,” said Lt. Col. Mitzi Thomas-Lawson, the Air Education and Training Command Mental Health Branch chief. “The desired outcome is to provide Airmen an opportunity to discuss suicide prevention concepts.”

In a message located in the Suicide Prevention Training Facilitator Manual, Lt. Col. Kathleen Crimmins, the Air Force Suicide Prevention Program manager, explained the need for the change in training.

“Our previous computer-based training was a good way to standardize the information and make it readily available,” wrote Crimmins. “But it missed an opportunity for leaders and their Airmen to address the problem on a personal level.”

The new training, which is outlined in detail in the facilitator manual, is designed to provide for good discussion and give each member a chance to talk openly.

“The face-to-face training is an hour in length which includes a 24-minute vignette-based video,” Thomas-Lawson said. “Discussion groups should have between eight and 20 members and should not exceed 30 participants.”

Training facilitators are chosen within individual units and Crimmins’ message states that commanders should choose their best mentor-leaders and supervisors to lead the small group discussions.

A recent training attendee here, Tech. Sgt. Katrina Rollins, a medical administrator for AETC Medical Services and Training, said the facilitator-led interaction was much more beneficial for her than the CBT.

“With the CBT, you kind of just sit there and click through some slides,” Rollins said. “Being part of a group discussion, seeing how everyone perceives the issues and having the facilitator bring up more discussion really changes the training for the better.”

Similar to the CBT, the face-to-face training will be an annual mandatory requirement and, according to Thomas-Lawson, the goal for AETC is to have 95 percent or more active-duty Airmen trained using the new format by May 26, 2015. Once complete, training will be documented by unit training managers in the Advanced Distributed Learning Service.

All training, to include the facilitator manual and training videos, can be accessed by going to the Wingman Online website.

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