The Air Force has taken a big step toward trying to solve a sad problem.
On Aug. 1, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein ordered all Air Force wings to conduct a one-day stand-down for resiliency and suicide prevention.
So far this year, 78 airmen have died by suicide — a more-than 50% increase over the same time period last year.
The Air Force is big on the wingman concept, meaning members of the service look out for each other. That is what it is going to take to solve this distressing problem.
It can be tough for military members to admit to problems and admit they need help. Hopefully, during the stand-down, leadership will let airmen know it’s OK to say things aren’t going well and they need help.
In a video, Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth Wright summed up what is expected: “We want leaders to look their airmen in the eyes and find the right ways to lead them to every type of wellness. This is our chance to take care of our airmen ... our family!”
A statement from Air Force headquarters said the stand-down will give airmen a chance to focus on overcoming the risks of suicide.
“The Resiliency Tactical Pause is about giving our airmen time back to connect and break down barriers to getting help,” according to the statement.
“This is the start of an ongoing dialogue about the force’s well-being and the collected feedback will drive changes to programs if necessary, as well as create more effective ways to empower leaders at the lowest level.”
At Vance Air Force Base, the operational pause will be Aug. 29. The base has lost one airman to suicide in the past four years.
Vance Command Chief Master Sgt. Frank Graziano, the senior enlisted airman at the base, said in a statement the stand-down is about airmen taking care of each other, as family.
“We are a family — not only as an Air Force, but as Vance Air Force Base,” Graziano said. “Our military service members and civilian counterparts, alike, are a family and family takes care of each other. We want to foster an environment where seeking help early and often is accepted.”
It may be cliche, but if the training helps even just one airman it will be worth it.