JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Virginia -- The 497th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group held a ribbon cutting ceremony to open their Airmen Resiliency Team’s Occupational Health Unit at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, Aug. 22, 2017.
Due to high rates of occupational stress, emotional exhaustion and risks for suicide, the 480th ISRW made a critical investment to support and sustain ISR Airmen by establishing Airman Resiliency Teams, or ARTs, said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Alan Ogle, 480th ISR Wing psychologist. The ARTs are comprised of mental health, medical and chapel personnel embedded at the wing's six core sites, and the ARTs have established the OHUs to help meet their goals.
“ISR personnel provide critical overwatch for the safety of our forces downrange; ARTs provide overwatch for ISR personnel,” said Ogle.
While not replacing base medical services, OHUs improve access to care for many issues, especially for shift workers, said Ogle. Medical staff in OHUs provide Airmen with limited scope medical and behavioral health care closer to their work locations.
“By providing health education, stress counseling, spiritual support and consultation on human performance optimization in 24/7/365 deployed-in-place operations, these teams have assisted ISR leaders in revolutionary changes for sustainable shifts, ergonomics, ISR combat stress training and mission resiliency,” said Ogle.
Having providers in the buildings where they are needed most can improve ISR missions.
“The ART is one of the top improvements I've seen in Distributed Common Ground System in the last sixteen years,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Kristofer Gifford, 497th ISRG commander. “Our medical, psychological and spiritual providers are in the building and around the ops floor interacting with us daily. Their presence, coupled with their clearances, gives them tremendous street credibility with our Airmen who are deployed in-place, supporting combat ISR missions 365 days a year, 24/7.
“The ART proves their worth every day, but truly it is on display most when tragedy strikes or suicidal ideations occur,” Gifford said. “They wrap their arms around the team, provide care and triage for higher echelons of care where needed.”
The OHU can also improve access to care at nearby medical facilities.
“The OHU has the added benefit of lowering the burden on the hospital and ER,” said Gifford. “At the OHU, our ART can conduct 70 percent of what can be done at the hospital, truly a win for all involved.”