Resiliency: The key to surviving the deployed experience Part 3

Southwest Asia -- Recently I sat down with Chaplain Lt. Col. Dan, Chief James, from the 380 Expeditionary Mission Support Group, Master Sergeant William, First Sergeant Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, and Capt. Kamy, Chief of the 380th’s Mental Health Clinic to discuss resiliency. What follows is the final part of our three part series on resiliency with a focus on the resources available to airmen and their families.

 

Simms: We have defined resiliency and discussed how to prepare for potential stressors that accompany a deployment, what resources are available if someone is going through a difficult time?

 

Chief James: A chief’s primary responsibility is taking care of the airmen, making sure they’re capable of performing the mission and they have all the resources they need. One those resources are the social skills and the resiliency to make it through the hard times. We’re the ones who hopefully provide the sage wisdom which comes from life experiences. 

 

Capt Kamy: We depend a lot on front line supervisors to check in with their people and make sure they notice smaller things before they become larger issues. 99% of the referrals that come to our clinic have no adverse effects on their career because our purpose is to keep people in the mission and keep them performing at their peak so the sooner they come to me the better. If I can just provide reassurance with a little bit of support, then I’ve done my job.

 

Chief James: I’ve been to mental health and I’ve been to the chaplains to talk through things. We’re all prideful and think we can handle things on our own.

 

First Sergeant William: I send people to the chaplain or mental health clinic because there are a lot of people that want to open up but they don’t want to talk to someone within their own unit. The best thing about these resources is the confidentiality.

 

Chaplain Dan: Confidentiality is critical because they know they can share anything and it’s not going to go outside of this room and we can meet outside the chapel or anywhere on base. We’re here to help everyone, including our senior leadership. Sometimes it’s lonely at the top and difficult to find a sounding board.

 

Simms: So all of you are resources for the airmen here, but what about the families back home?

 

Capt Kamy: The Airman and Family Readiness Center is a good place to start. I think a lot of airmen are fearful of contacting command, fear of the unknown. It’s a benign place you can start from and they can lead you in the right direction.

 

Chief James: The key spouses program is a great place because you get true empathy for your situation because most of the spouses have been in that situation before. I see so many airmen that don’t want the spouse at home involved in the key spouse program and I see that as an indicator of a much larger problem. By not allowing them to participate in the program, you’re taking a huge support system away from them and a sense of community.

 

First Sergeant William: I keep a list of all of my deployed members and their families when I’m back at home station and once a month I call the spouse and just check in. Most of the time there’s nothing wrong, but other times I’m able to alert the commander if I feel there is a problem that needs to be addressed. So if there isn’t someone checking on the family while they’re here, I encourage them to reach out to their first sergeant back home.

 

Chaplain Dan: Military One Source is another avenue for family members to receive help, especially our Guard and Reserve members who live far from their base. Both Airman and Family Readiness, which is at their home station, and Military One Source which is online, can help Guard and Reserve families. Military dependents can also contact the chapel and mental health offices at their base, it’s not just for the service member. We’re usually able to help airmen and their families find resources for problems they don’t often imagine chaplains would be able to address.