Simulator helps Airman overcome trauma

Senior Airman Ebony Robinson, 841st Missile Security Forces Squadron missile security operator, uses a vehicle simulator Jan. 28, 2019, 2019, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont.

Senior Airman Ebony Robinson, 841st Missile Security Forces Squadron missile security operator, uses a vehicle simulator Jan. 28, 2019, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. The new vehicle simulator is used to train Airmen on how to react when their vehicle loses traction or goes off the road. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob M. Thompson)

Senior Airman Ebony Robinson, 841st Missile Security Forces Squadron missile security operator, puts on gear for a vehicle simulator Jan. 28, 2019, 2019, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont.

Senior Airman Ebony Robinson, 841st Missile Security Forces Squadron missile security operator, puts on gear for a vehicle simulator Jan. 28, 2019, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. The simulator works with virtual reality technology to recreate the real-world experience to be as accurate as possible. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob M. Thompson)

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- Snow is a normal weather element in Montana, but it can turn dangerous quickly. One Airman was traumatized after she lost control of a Humvee.

“A member of the 841st Missile Security Forces Squadron had a close call driving a Humvee during the first winter weather in October,” said Col. Aaron Guill, 341st Security Forces Group commander.

“She was shaken by this experience so much she no longer felt comfortable driving in the field,” he added. “Her leadership sat down with her to develop a plan for her to overcome it.”

Senior Airman Ebony Robinson, 841st MSFS missile security operator, along with a team member, were driving to a launch facility when their Humvee lost control in a turn, spinning out several times before stopping at the edge of a cliff.

“I had never been in a car accident before and I’ve been driving in the missile field for three years,” said Robinson. “A scenario like that was traumatic for me. I had to go down on duty for a few weeks because of it.”

Going down on duty means the inability or temporary halt of performing tasks needed to accomplish a mission on a day-to-day basis.

Robinson met with a military family life consultant who recommended she try out the virtual skid car trainer to comfortably reintroduce herself to driving.

The simulator is a training tool for Airmen to learn how to recover control when their vehicle loses traction or skids off the road, with no real repercussion.

“Initially, I doubted the MFLC or simulator could truly help me out. I believed and told myself I would never drive a Humvee again,” said Robinson. “I thought they wouldn’t be able to help me, they don’t know me, they don’t know anything - I was wrong. They were incredibly helpful.”

According to Robinson, she had anxiety attacks because of the incident and the MFLC taught her breathing and calming techniques to use during the simulator to get accustomed to while driving.

After the techniques became second-nature, she built up the courage to start driving again, with the support and encouragement of her leadership and Maj. Christopher Thompson, 841st MSFS commander.

“The simulator was surprisingly accurate to that of driving a real Humvee,” said Robinson. “Maj. Thompson would actually come in and watch me in the simulator and came out with me when I had to drive a real Humvee.”

They first started driving around when weather was ideal and progressed to driving when it snowed.

“Maj. Thompson would drive until I felt comfortable and he made sure I was okay to drive,” said Robinson. “He’s a great commander and his help was valuable to my recovery.”

Because of the support of her peers and leadership, Robinson says she feels confident and fully mission-capable once again.

She since then has completed duties in the missile complex after her treatments, utilizing the tactics she was taught to remain calm and collected when faced with adversity.

“I tell everyone I know about the help I got. Everyone hesitates about driving in the weather up here,” Robinson said. “My wingman almost got into an accident himself and was scared enough to go down on duty, too, so I told him about the MFLC and the vehicle simulator.”

“I’ve been letting our Airmen know they can get help,” she continued. “These experiences don’t have to haunt you for the rest of your life, these methods do work and I proved it.”
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