JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. --
Intelligence analysts sit in front of computer monitors, closely watching images of an ongoing mission, but they are feeling stressed. The reason for this stress could vary, from work to personal issues. Whatever the reason, the analysts may not be performing to their maximum capability, until they are suddenly interrupted with a simple question, “How are you doing today?”
The question was posed by an Airmen Resiliency Team member whose job it is to identify the stressors analysts experience, teach them the techniques to strengthen their resiliency and provide them, and their families, with physical, mental and spiritual support.
In July, the 480th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing’s ART held a Total Force Integration Conference at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, allowing ART members from throughout the geographically separated Wing to connect for three days with over 160 peers from other services and nations, increase their knowledge of the challenges analysts are facing, and to hone team member’s skills.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to cross train with our Total Force partners,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Alan Ogle, 480th ISRW psychologist. “This is really a new type of warfare, and we have to train our chaplains and medics to best support these remote warfighters. As a military medic, it’s an honor and a responsibility that we go where they are, when they are making life and death decisions, to support them as best as we possibly can.”
The ARTs are comprised of mental health, physical health and chaplain professionals embedded directly within ISR units to provide support and care to the remote warfighters.
“The ART is important because we are a member of each unit, each mission and each team,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Laquanya Mason-Coyner, superintendent of wing medical operations. “We’re not only a team among ourselves, but we become a part of the unit we are helping. We further the unit’s mission success by helping each member to become more resilient.”
The keynote speaker at the conference, U.S. Navy Capt. Matthew Kleiman, Joint Surgeon Office National Guard Bureau director of psychological health programs, discussed the need to work collaboratively across different lines of efforts.
“This conference is about our psychological health specialists, Department of Public Health, chaplains and those individuals that are supporting our Soldiers and Airmen,” said Kleiman. “Providing that support in an environment where we can be effective, get to someone who may be struggling on some level, back into the fight, and by working in a holistic and integrated way with all of our mission support specialists, is critical to accomplishing that goal.”
“We all have the same essential mission which is to support the readiness of the total force so I’m always happy when I see we’re bringing together folks from the different services and crossing over from the active to the reserves and guard,” he added.
The mission of taking care of Airmen is not only an active duty job. This conference was the first to include ISR and remotely piloted aircraft National Guard ART members. Maj. Jason Knudeson, 480th ISRW chaplain, said it is vital that active duty ISR component members be integrated with all their Total Force partners.
“To finally come together with Guardsmen to do training to build resiliency teams across the enterprise is exciting to me,” said Knudeson. “They are getting insight on what it would look like to do an intra-disciplinary collaborative team, and I see some excitement and ideas popping into our teammate’s minds. They are our brothers and sisters in uniform. If we can strengthen them and the Airmen that work at the Guard sites, it’s a win-win.”
“There is a comradery that is being built,” said Col Timothy Gregory, deputy director of the Air National Guard chaplain corps. “People are gaining information and developing new knowledge. I hope they gain a better understanding of the roles that each of the professionals play in caring for Airmen, what their roles are and how to leverage and maximize the team’s ability to serve Airmen.”
The conference not only provided insight to U.S. service members, but also to international partners who are building their ART capabilities.
“There is a huge depth of experience here to learn from,” said Squadron Leader Andrea MacFarlane of United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force. “You’ve got a collection of experts in these areas; they’ve really done a lot of work and research, so their theories and models are backed up and credible. It’s important to learn from the similarities, learn what we can take forward, and hopefully this could be the start of something which would help us as the years go forward.”
Whether it was learning about the effects of sleep deprivation, healthy eating or dealing with stress, ART members collaborated at the conference with other professionals so they can be equipped with the right tools to address any issue their analysts might experience. ‘
Tech. Sgt. Vashon Bynum, 693rd ISR Group physical health technician, spoke during the conference about how physical health, fitness and preventative health medicine approaches bolster an Airman’s resiliency for mission success.
“The human aspect is the most important aspect,” said Bynum. “They haven’t found a great way to replace us, so you have to invest in the actual human being. If we don’t invest in making sure folks are mentally, physically and spiritually resilient, and able to thrive, then ultimately the mission fails.”