JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO – LACKLAND, Texas --
For most, the holidays are a time of excitement, travel, parties and reflection. For others, it might be a time of excessive risk, loneliness or despair.
Paul Weseloh, Director of Safety at 25th Air Force, recommends all Airmen take the time to enjoy the holiday season while also taking time to plan, rest and recognize when someone might need words of encouragement as the New Year approaches.
“The goal of Safety is to safeguard Airmen, protect resources and preserve combat capability,” Weseloh said. “During the holiday and New Year's period, we need to raise the bar in our off-duty activities to ensure we are present for duty and fit to fight when called on.”
With the excitement of time off from work, the potential of traveling in adverse weather, and the hectic holiday pace, all Airmen should consider the risks involved.
“Risk and how we actively mitigate and accept risk at the appropriate level underpin the Air Force safety programs,” Weseloh said. “When we assess and mitigate risk we prevent mishaps. Take the lessons you learn in the work center and apply the same principles in your off-duty activities. If you buckle up on base and follow the speed limits, do the same off base. Can't text and drive on base, so why do it off base?”
If you're driving during the holidays, check all the important things - fluids, battery, lights, wipers, tires, brakes, and so on, said Lt. Col. Steven Cornelson, commander of the 488th Intelligence Squadron.
Cornelson also recommends getting rid of distractions while driving, like cell phones.
“Pull over and get those power naps when you're sleepy,” he said. “Take your time...give yourself time to avoid last minute stress.”
When celebrating with alcohol, make a plan and stick to it.
“Stick to your plan!” Cornelson said. “There's risk if you deviate. Stick to your plan...stick...to...your...plan.”
In addition to taking care of yourself this holiday season, be a good Wingman and take notice of others who may have difficulties.
“During the holidays, we are inundated with social media and television images of individuals surrounded by friends and family. These images can make our perception of disconnection/loneliness grow,” said Chaplain (Maj.) Jim Bridgham, wing chaplain, 363rd Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing.
So, how does an individual overcome loneliness?
“To work through loneliness, first recognize and accept that this is a normal emotion, which everyone will go through from time-to-time,” Bridgham said. “It's important to note that loneliness can even occur when we are surrounded by people, because those individuals are not connecting with us.
“The second step is to explain your feelings to a friend or a trusted co-worker. Ask for some time with them,” he said. “We often expect people to reach out to us first. In a perfect world, that would always happen, but when individuals have a high work-load or become busy, we tend to become self-focused. So take a step to ask for that connection!
“Finally, you can always reach out to a faith community or other local resources that can point you in the right direction,” he said. “If you are really lonely, you can always reach out to your friendly neighborhood chaplain.”
While some Airmen will seek help when they need it, others will not. That is where being a good Wingman can make all the difference.
“One smile, one conversation, one comment, one caring gesture toward somebody at risk can make a difference in their experience and perhaps instill hope and get them to help,” said Dr. Keita Franklin, the Defense Suicide Prevention Office director, in a Suicide Prevention Month article.
Safety is not just one person’s responsibility, it’s everyone's responsibility, Weseloh said. And, he said, “It starts with you.”
NOTE: If you find yourself needing someone to reach out to, contact the Department of Defense BeThere Peer Support Call and Outreach Center by voice or text at: 844-357-PEER (7337). If you need urgent assistance, please contact the Military Crisis Line at: 1-800-273-8255.