By Tech. Sgt. Robert Barnett | Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs
ARLINGTON, Va (AFNS) — Amid a pandemic and an ever-changing world, the mental health of Airmen, Guardians and their families is a continued priority for the Department of the Air Force. Senior leaders are focused on building and growing resilience by establishing a task force called Operation Arc Care. This task force is currently reviewing resilience programs and overarching strategy using a phased approach which began in November.
“Like the continuation of an electric force created through an arc, no matter where you or your family go, it is up to us to make sure there is continuity for our member’s resiliency needs,” said Brig. Gen Claude Tudor, Air Force Resilience director.
The task force was established in response to ongoing feedback received over the last year and as part of the 2019 Resiliency Tactical Pause, and has three phases. The first phase began in November and focused on developing a common operating picture by collecting data, evaluating policies, and examining resources dedicated to resilience programs and services. Phase two is designed to use the material from phase one and additional information collected from major commands and installations to help shape the department’s resilience strategy. In phase three, the team will recommend solutions allowing leaders to adapt the programs and services that best serve the needs of Airmen, Guardians and their families.
“With over 30 years of combat and lots of dedicated teammates investing in the care and support of our Forces and families, we never had the opportunity to truly synchronize and develop an integrated human operations platform. We hope to optimize performance and provide the care and support ecosystem needed to ensure our service members can meet the nation’s demands when called upon,” Tudor said. “We are working to build a culture where we help leaders put their people first. We want to help empower leaders to execute their missions and maintain good order and discipline while also remaining connected with their team so they can lead with compassion, empathy, character and grace, while treating every human with dignity and respect.”
The plan is to remove policy barriers and identify initiatives that improve the experience of care for Airmen, Guardians, and family members, according to Col. Laura Ramos, Air Force Resilience strategic partnership division chief.
“With this task force, you will find that spouses and family members are included and have a significant role in Operation Arc Care; and our working sessions are designed to include stakeholders from the installations and major commands,” she explained. “This a holistic effort that incorporates feedback and ideas from across the DAF.”
The intent is to create a Department of the Air Force resilience strategy that will differ from traditional strategies written in the past, she explained. Instead, the strategy will be adaptive and offer a baseline for installations while providing leaders with tools to take care of AG&F. Operation Arc Care is currently in phase two, with expectations of moving to the next phase by the end of March.
“Our people are the most important resource we have,” said Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass. “We’ve been hearing their challenges, and we owe it (to) them to build a strategy that ensures our Airmen, Guardians, and families get the care they need, wherever they are, and whenever they need it.”
In order to develop that strategy, the Operation Arc Care team will define the Department of the Air Force vision and a five-year goal to identify strategic areas of focus.
“We also want to give our Airmen and Guardians the freedom to innovate; make sure they are adequately resourced and informed; and afforded the space for information sharing and collaboration,” Ramos said.
Resiliency resources for Airmen, Guardians and their families include:
Airmen and Family Readiness Centers
Military Family Life counselors
Leadership, such as unit commanders, supervisors, first sergeants, etc.
Civilian Employee Assistance programs
Key Spouse Programs
Community Support Coordinators
Equal Opportunity Liaisons
Family Advocacy Programs
Health Promotion programs
Exceptional Family Member Programs
Mental Health Clinics
Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention programs
Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Coordinators
Members of the Interpersonal Violence Task Forces
Air Force Wounded Warrior Programs
Survivor Advocacy Councils
Invisible Wounds Initiatives
Family, Child, & Youth Programs
Morale, Wellness, and Recreation programs, and more.
Popular websites include Air Force Resilience, Child Care Aware, Military OneSource, which includes Military Spouse Education and Career Opportunities, the Spouse Resiliency Toolkit, as well as apps such as Air Force Connect.
“We’re using community-focused programs customized by major command, base, and garrison-levels because they are best suited for answering the needs of their Airmen, Guardians, and families in their unique locations,” Ramos said. “We recognize that having a worldwide presence makes us a ‘community of communities’ and while many needs are universal, some are specific to certain units, missions, people, areas, and geographic locations.”
Guidance will be provided for wings to help communicate new policies, programs and address emerging issues.
“When my teammates and families hear ‘resilience,’ we want them to think about how they can optimize their performance through mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health, all in the face of potential adversity,” Tudor said. “Are leaders at every echelon involved? What resources will we have at your fingertips to click on or call to make an appointment that helps you find their way? Are we providing those resources and are they readily available for all forces and family members to understand and use? That is what we want to get after.”