Edwards Air Force Base in California conducted a Tactical Pause Day in an effort to strengthen resiliency amongst its team of Airmen and civilians, Sept. 3, 2019.
The Resilience Tactical Pause is an ongoing opportunity for leaders at all levels to respond to the matter of suicide. The current trend of suicides in the Air Force have surpassed last year’s numbers at the same point in the year. The Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Gen. David Goldfein, asked leaders at all levels across the Air Force to use this 45 day window, between Aug. 1 and Sept. 15, to discuss this issue with their Airmen and civilians and to report back what can be done differently to address and reduce suicides, said Julie Wilbanks, the base community support coordinator.
“Suicide is killing more of our airmen than any enemy,” she said. “Without direct, targeted efforts, the current trajectory predicts we could lose 150 plus Total Force Airmen this year, Wilbanks explained that the figure is a 32 percent increase over the last 5 years. As a way to help combat that rising trend, base leadership and support organizations planned the Tactical Pause Day.
To kick off the day, Brig. Gen. E. John Teichert, 412th Test Wing Commander, addressed those in attendance at the base theater. Teichert opened up about his best friend Jim’s suicide earlier this year.
“Of course news like rocks your world,” he said. “A flow of emotions of various types flows through, and you’re numb. Frankly, I carried through with the rest of my activities on that day mostly numb, there’s still that little part of me that continues to be numb as a result of that today.”
After the opening remarks, multiple base agencies hosted break-out training sessions throughout the base. The training sessions were designed to share information on the underlying stressors which may lead to suicide and allow personnel to meet the supporting agencies and the people behind them face-to-face, Wilbanks said. The topics ranged from financial management to communication and other relationship building matters.
“We put the experts out there for everyone to meet,” Wilbanks said. “It’s easier to talk so someone you already know when there is a face behind these difficult topics.”
Wilbanks also added that connectedness is necessary to prevent suicides and can also be beneficial to unit cohesion and morale. Leadership and colleagues all must make every effort to enhance work center connectedness and create a climate that fosters resilience and promotes help seeking when necessary.
“I like the four pillars of resilience that we preach in the United States Air Force: social, spiritual, physical and mental,” Teichert said. “There’s a lot of values in those and a lot of importance in making sure that in the good times, we build up those elements of our character and support network. So when the bad times come; when the storms come and the rains fall and the winds blow, we’ve got a foundation we can rely upon.”
Besides the Tactical Pause Day, base support agencies have arranged for Kristen Christy, the 2018 Air Force Spouse of the Year, to a speaking engagement at the base theater at 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., on Sept. 12. Christy will present her personal story of resilience.