Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall visited the 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing at Creech Air Force Base, Nev., July 29, 2022, to learn firsthand the base’s importance in remotely piloted aircraft innovation.
Kendall’s conversation with Creech leaders focused on the continuous effort to establish Next Generation Air Dominance through investing in technology, mechanics and the people who provide mission support.
“Our weapon system is the RPA Triad: Airmen, Aircraft and Infrastructure,” said Col. Eric Schmidt, 432nd Wing/432nd AEW commander. “Airmen are the most critical part of the Triad and we have taken steps to prepare the Hunters for the future fight.”
Part of that preparation includes alleviating the operational and emotional stress that RPA Airmen incur as a result of their hard work. Because of their skill, they experience a high demand for support from Combatant Commanders. Maximizing performance by ensuring peak mental health is a key function of the Human Performance Team.
The HPT, a unique team of Operational Psychologists, Aerospace and Operational Physiologists (AOP), Flight Surgeons, and a Religious Support Team (RST) identified for RPA support, represent specialty areas of stressors that RPA crews may face.
“We’ve found that by having support embedded in units, the providers are able to build better relationships, gain trust, and have a better understanding of the mission,” said Chaplain/Maj. James Taylor, the HPT flight chief. “This allows our providers to be more proactive than reactive with their support.”
Based on the positive feedback generated from integrated support units, steps have been taken to further expand such initiatives. Creech looks to introduce the True North program, which embeds providers and spiritual leaders within squadrons and groups where they are most needed.
“There are four pillars of the resilience model: mental, physical, social and spiritual,” said Master Sgt. Peter Berger, the HPT superintendent. “We must have equal focus on each pillar to ensure that Airmen realize their full potential.”
The Wing has also begun the process of incorporating an Operational Support Team, an embedded medical team that aims to provide on-site care, training and preventive fitness. The quicker an Airman can have their physical needs addressed, the better equipped they are to face operational challenges.
“The care of all types provided to our Airmen at Creech is responsive and professional. These Airmen carry out their duties with expertise and dedication, but these responsibilities create stress and other concerns,” Kendall said. “The embedded resiliency support we provide is designed to ensure that Airmen have ready access to care for all their mental, spiritual and physical health needs,” Kendall said.
The visit wrapped with Kendall personally meeting with five exceptional Airmen and coining them to recognize their accomplishments and dedication to duty.
“It was inspiring and humbling to meet with these dedicated Airmen who are constantly looking for innovative options and new ideas to improve RPA operations,” Kendall said.