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Airman support initiative: Increasing support of Airmen, families

A woman wearing the operational camouflage patter uniform gives a thumbs up to a man wearing the airman battle uniform.

Air Force Gen. Maryanne Miller, Air Mobility Command commander, talks with Air Force Lt. Col. David Knight, 19th Airlift Wing head chaplain, at Little Rock Air Force Base Chapel, Nov. 1, 2018. Miller met with representatives from organizations such as the mental health office, casualty assistance team and sexual assault prevention and response office put in place to help develop and care for Airmen and their families. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kristine M. Gruwell)

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. --

Beginning in January 2019, Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas opened three embedded Airman support centers across the base. The base chapel, Airman and Family Readiness Center, and 19th Medical Group teamed up to establish satellite work spaces within individual units to care for Airmen better across the installation.

The 19th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 19th Maintenance Squadron, 19th Logistics Readiness Squadron all have their own embedded support team to make helping agencies more readily available to Airmen.

Last year Beale AFB, California, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Whiteman AFB, Missouri and Minot AFB, North Dakota, were all selected as beta sites for the Air Force’s Task Force True North initiative. Each base received a team of 16 licensed clinical social workers and four mental health providers to embed within units and interact with Airmen every day.

After hearing about the success of the TFTN initiative Little Rock AFB leadership decided to pursue their own locally staffed, and locally funded version based on the same model.

Eventually, the Air Force will review the program and possibly expand. Team Little Rock saw a way to contribute to mission success and enhance quality of life by allowing easier access to care for Airmen by creating the support initiative.

“We approached Col. Donohue (19th Airlift Wing commander) about this idea, and he was very interested,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Jonathan Black, 19th AW chaplain. “We decided we would try to embed chaplains in some of the high-risk areas.”

Eventually the idea evolved to embed A&FRC members and medical personnel alongside the chaplains.

“The A&FRC is manning all of those facilities five days a week from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.,” said Sharon Thompson, A&FRC flight chief. “Even at lunch time we provide coverage so at lunch you’re not going to find an empty office.”

In support of this effort all A&FRC staff members are now trained and certified life coaches.

“We have a good reputation, people want to come see us, and everybody is excited about the life coaching because it is something brand new. We are the first base to have certified life coaches,” Thompson said.

The Airman support initiative at LRAFB is a program designed to increase the mental, emotional and spiritual capacity of the force by anticipating and meeting Airmen and their families' needs to respond to and thrive during the challenges of life.

“Being able to know someone’s name and face goes a long way and can make all the difference to an Airman who is thinking about the problems in life or thinking about something negative,” Black said. “When they actually know us and know what we look like, and have talked to us and know we are close to them down in their work space, it greatly enhances the chances that they will come and seek help.”

According to Thompson, the A&FRC members at the new Airmen support centers have been able to meet and interact with people who they may have never seen in their main office.

“We can provide all types of support and classes at these embedded unit locations, and we are really happy to be a part of that team,” Thompson said. “It’s been great so far, and we are excited because we think that this can make a huge difference.”

With these embedded Airmen support centers the chapel, A&FRC and medical technicians are bringing their services to the Airmen instead of Airmen having to go to them.

“Whatever we can do to support the Airmen and make things a little bit easier for them,” Black said. “We want to give them incentive and remove any kind of roadblocks that may prevent them from saying, ‘I need to talk to somebody’.”

Airman support centers are located in buildings 255, 272 and 450. For more information on these centers and what they have to offer please contact the A&FRC at (501) 987-2667 or the base chapel at (501) 987-6014.

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