JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va --
The 480th Intelligence, Reconnaissance and Surveillance Wing hosted key Airmen Resiliency Team leaders and personnel during a global synchronization Apr. 10 to 14 at Joint Base Langley-Eustis.
The ART is a creative approach to dealing with combat stress for deployed-in-place Airmen, said Master Sgt. Juan Cortez. It consists of chaplains, mental health and physical health technicians who have the appropriate security clearance to speak with and provide direct support to intelligence Airmen.
“You wouldn’t expect that in the military, with everything being so structured,” said Ms. Mary Walker, director of psychological health for Distributed Ground System Indiana Air National Guard, said of the ART program. “That’s what I think is so fascinating about the ART concept taking off is that leadership has allowed these resiliency teams to really think outside the box on creative programs and interventions to really help Airmen.”
The purpose of this ART summit was to get the key personnel together in one place for a week to foster new ideas and improve upon the direction of the ART concept.
“What [ISR Airmen] see can be traumatizing, so it’s important that we’re in place to help them see a mental health technician or mental health provider,” said Tech. Sgt. Justin Baker, mental health technician. “They work long shifts where 10-12 hours are normal, and they’re deployed in place 24/7, so they don’t always have immediate access to the medical clinics because of the shifts they work. We’re right there on the operational floor to help with any questions or concerns.”
The summit allowed the ARTs to share programs and initiatives they’ve used to make resiliency elements readily available for the Airmen.
“I think everyone is really friendly and really open and easy to talk to,” said Baker. “No one is hoarding information or trying to keep great ideas to themselves. It’s all for the betterment of the ISR Airmen. Everyone is doing a good job of communicating and collaborating, and trying to come up with the best product to make this even better for our replacements and the Airmen.”
With six geographically separated ISR groups, and Air Reserve and National Guard units running their own ART program or standing them up, the information provided during this forum eliminates some of the growing pains, Walker said.
“We don’t have an active ART in the Guard,” said Ms. Walker. “I am the only full-time asset of this team concept. We will have a full-time chaplain that will have clearance, but we don’t have any medical elements that do. It’s a barrier for us, but the nice thing is to see how these others team are working, how they function, the programs they’ve developed and how effective those are. We do a lot of that ourselves already, but it been more individually than us making our own team, but now we have a format for how to do that, and we can share ideas.”
This is the second iteration of the ART summit. Returning ART members can see the vast changes from the first one and bring more experience to the group for improving it.
“Initially, we just stood up our ART program about six months prior to the first [summit], and for this one, we’ve been in the position for about a year, and we got our feet wet,” said Tech. Sgt. Anette Diamond, 692nd ISR Group aerospace medical technician. “We know exactly what we’re doing and the goals we are moving toward. We understand what our commanders expect from us and the plans that we want to put into place, and have had time to put into place, to benefit the Airmen.”
Operational health stress studies conducted by the 480th ISRW and others were the genesis for the ART program. Since its inception, the positive impact that the ARTs are having can be felt throughout the ISR community.
“I can look at our people, see something is wrong with them, and know to go talk to them,” said Diamond. “It may not even be medical, it could be that they need somebody to talk to or a little pick me up. We’re friends with them, we’re often their family, and we’re there to be their medical subject matter expert—whatever they may need.”