An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Let’s take care of each other!

  • Published
  • By Col. Mike Hornitschek
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
We started off this week by taking time out of our busy schedules for Resiliency Day to focus on each other. Our Air Force is committed to the Wingman concept and with building and maintaining ready, resilient Airmen.

Our wing has been doing a phenomenal job of training each other on how to be more resilient and to "bounce back, not break." However, across the Air Force, we're still seeing an uptick of suicide rates just in the first two weeks of 2012 alone. Because of this concern, our leaders wanted to address this issue with everyone at the first available opportunity.

Suicide prevention is a complex process, and we must take every step to ensure we are minimizing preventable loss. Effective suicide prevention is a combination of good wingmanship--surveillance for Airmen in distress--and clear messaging about it. We shouldn't be dramatizing it or giving the impression that suicide is a common way for people to deal with problems. In fact, just the opposite is true, and no matter what is going on in a person's life, they need to know that they can overcome, solve or find ways to work through their issues. That's why we teach that Airmen with strong mental, physical, social and spiritual fitness have a better ability to withstand, recover and grow in the face of stressors.

I have to credit our Air Mobility Command leadership who instituted the culture of the Comprehensive Airmen Fitness model. CAF raises awareness and fosters balance in four areas of wellbeing--mental, physical, social, and spiritual strength. Lack of self care with regard to these areas can feed a cycle of distorted thinking and destructive behaviors.

At a recent leadership meeting, LCDR Julie Chodacki--our chair of the Integrated Delivery System (Scott's helping agencies)--explained how there are two factors that lead people to consider suicide. One, the case of thwarted belongingness, and two, the case of perceived burdensomeness. When someone goes down the path of destructive behaviors and distorted thinking, he or she may go so far as to think that the Air Force, their family, and the world would be better off without them--we know though that is not the case.

Each member of our team is integral to our Wing's mission. None of us should ever be too busy to be a Wingman. I know that, and, I hope, you know that. However, when someone's social connections are strained, they are worn down from too little sleep, or they've lost their sense of purpose, our high ops tempo and repeated warnings to maintain excellence amid resource reductions may seem like this Air Force can't be burdened by a single person's call for help. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Being a Wingman is a duty and a privilege, not a burden. The burden is in trying to recover in the aftermath of a suicide. If you notice yourself or someone else going down the path of destructive thinking, be alarmed and get help today. Airmen who have the ability to examine how their thoughts and attitudes are affecting their behaviors and situations possess the keys to maintaining mental health. Traits such as optimism can be learned and modeled and training in critical thinking skills can provide tools for effectively solving problems.

Well balanced Airmen must have the physical stamina to carry out the mission and be full participants in their private lives. We can never overstate the value of moderation with alcohol and the importance of physical restoration such as good sleep hygiene, which can be critical factors in one's well being.

Every Airman should have the right amount of support from peers, family and their unit to minimize social isolation and to prevent distress. Peers can play a crucial role in providing support and encouraging the use of helping agencies. Many times it may not be the supervisor or leader who gets that first call for help--or who even will notice that call for help--so peers need to listen up and know what to do. Don't be afraid to call emergency responders. Don't be afraid to notify leadership. Do the right thing ... quickly. That's why we have these training days ... so we can help folks decide ahead of time what the proper responses should be.

I'd especially like to emphasize the value of spiritual fitness as a means to improving coping abilities. Many times our Airmen just need perspective and hope. Spiritual resilience can help instill a sense of purpose, which is a basic human need. Each person has his or her own path in life, but I've seen the positive influence and stabilizing factor that spiritual--and emotional--fitness plays in resilient Airmen.

As a review, we should be on the watch for any unusual or sudden changes in behavior, appearance, hygiene, demeanor, emotions, work performance or relationships at work or home. Hopefully, you will have already established a rapport with your Airmen so you are in a position to help them during a crisis. Don't be afraid to ask tough questions and be a role model yourself of healthy self-care.

Bottom line is that we want our Airmen to know that it's a sign of strength to ask for help. It shows they have enough self-awareness and desire to make a change and reach out. That's a good thing! It's tough to ask for help because many of us pride ourselves on being self-reliant. Asking for help IS part of self-reliance because you are willing to take the necessary steps to solve problem areas in your life so you can restore your balance.

During our Resiliency Day we outlined several community and online resources which are available through many of our helping agencies. Military One Source and our very own CAFé webpage are both good starting points. The Scott AFB webpage,, was recently upgraded to include a calendar of events and descriptions of Base helping agency programs. If you haven't visited the site recently, I encourage you to not only pick a date on the calendar and see what's going on, but click on the CAFé logo to explore the various opportunities to strengthen your mental, physical, social, and spiritual fitness. If you're reluctant to engage on-base resources, there are also free opportunities off base, including at For anyone needing more information on these resources, I urge you to contact your supervisor, first sergeant or the Airman and Family Readiness Center.

I depend on each of you to do your part in building resiliency in yourself and support others around you to do the same. We depend on each other for support to accomplish our many missions. We all need good Wingmen to make that happen! I have great Wingmen in my vice commander, Col. Kevin Webb, and command chief, Chief Master Sgt. Kevin Candler. Of course, another important Wingman is my spouse, Polly, who champions the cause and buoys me through troubled waters.

Let's work on having good Wingmen in our lives, and being good Wingmen to each other so we can continue to take care of each other because every single person contributes to our life, work and play at Scott AFB! You make it showcase! You make it ... home, and we don't want to lose anyone!