Our resilient Airmen powerful weapon

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Joseph Conti
  • 490th Missile Squadron commander
Malmstrom Air Force Base maintains and operates some of the most powerful weapons our nation has ever developed, the Minuteman III ICBM. However, as Col. Robert Stanley, our vice commander, spoke about at a recent Airman Leadership School graduation, our allies are not assured nor our adversaries deterred solely by our weapons. They are assured and deterred by the Airmen that maintain, protect, support and operate these weapons. Our Airmen are our most powerful resource and, regardless of the weapons we develop in the future, if we do not have well-trained Airmen on the front line then our nation will become vulnerable.

On Sept. 28, Malmstrom units participated in a Wingman Resiliency Day. This day was designed to discuss and combat the significant number of suicides our Air Force family has experienced this year. Airmen at all levels have been affected by this disturbing trend in suicides. It is a permanent solution to temporary problems and an Airman's loved ones, friends and coworkers will suffer from this needless loss of life for years to come. While we all understand the inherent dangers of our profession, especially with the ongoing conflicts, the loss of an Airman in this selfish way is something we all must try to prevent. While there were formal briefings provided by the Health and Wellness Center, Family Advocacy and other base agencies, the most important part of the day was the ability to sit down as a unit and talk with each other about stressors and how to overcome them.

For resiliency day, after attending the "Nutrition on the Go" and "Stress Management" briefings, our squadron returned to the squadron area and front-line supervisors hosted group discussions. Why did we break into smaller groups with our front-line supervisors? Besides our fellow Wingman, the front-line supervisor is most in-tune with what makes our Airmen tick. The objective was to transition from formal discussions to a more open dialog, allowing our Airmen to drive the topics. Discussions ranged from everyday stressors of dispatching to the missile field, career field changes and consolidations, to the upcoming inspections and fiscal challenges each member and unit will face in the upcoming year.

We discussed that some of these stressors are out of their control (i.e., the fiscal challenges) and they should try to put it out of their mind and find healthy outlets to relieve this stress. In addition, it was helpful for them to see that they are not alone. There are others like them that have similar concerns and it is OK to talk about it.

We concluded our events with a squadron lunch and some good camaraderie. Resiliency day facilitated a better understanding that we share some of the same fears, concerns and stressors. Openly discussing and coping with these stressors is important and can help. As a unit, we have a better appreciation of how much we care about each other and we all have a Wingman who is available to help. The bottom line is that regardless of the weapon system you may maintain, defend, support or operate, and the stresses that you are under everyday as Airmen, you are not alone. You are what makes us the most powerful Air Force in the world.