Stop… and talk

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Alexi Bosarge
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. –  Suicide. It’s a tough subject for most people, but Team McConnell is committed to addressing rates of suicide in the Air Force. McConnell is employing an Air Force initiative called the Resilience Tactical Pause Sept. 27, 2019.


Each wing in the Air Force has been mandated to connect with their Airmen to increase moral among units and establish a climate where Airmen feel comfortable discussing any challenges or hardships related to suicide.


The 22nd Air Refueling Wing is pausing to focus on building relationships between the ranks, creating a better work environment. This is also a time for leadership and peers to give each other tools needed to increase Airmen’s confidence and knowledge to recognize signs such as depression, irritability, mood swings and anxiety.


“We are a family,” said Col. Richard Tanner, 22nd Air Refueling Wing commander.  “A large one, but we are made up of a bunch of smaller families across groups, squadrons, flights and shops.  I think our RTP day and our ongoing efforts can help all of us connect to our Air Force family and help each other in meaningful ways.”


As a part of McConnell’s RTP, Airmen will have the opportunity to listen to the inspirational message of Kevin Hines, a man who overcame tragedy through sharing his story of resilience with others.


“[Mr. Hines] talks through how he got to that very dark place in his life, how he got help and moved on, and most importantly how he manages and overcomes each day,” said Tanner. “Every human experiences real challenges, and we can make a difference for each other by being connected to our teammates and perceptive when they are beginning to struggle.”


McConnell is more than just a team, it is a family. Members could be away from their family for months on end, but they will always have their battle buddy with them. When no one else is there, they can expect their wingmen to be by their side. This RTP will give the McConnell family time to connect and reflect with each other on challenges that each person could be facing.


“It’s an opportunity for Airmen to share experiences so that they understand everyone goes through tough times,” said Chief Master Sgt. Melissa Royster, 22nd Air Refueling Wing command chief. “The key is learning how to go through difficult situations, but not staying in them or dealing with them alone.”


The Air Force wants Airmen to know that they are not alone. Not only has the Air Force put suicide prevention into its professional military education curriculum to raise awareness of risk factors, but it has also created the Unite program. This program distributes funds for each unit to use for team building in order to create cohesion among Airmen.  


“We all need human connections to help us overcome the challenges we face,” said Royster. “I hope during this pause the Airmen capitalize on the importance of face-to-face conversations and share their experiences with one another. Not just for this one day, but I’m hoping this becomes a catalyst that as Airmen we are intentional about acknowledging the presence of others, valuing relationships and getting back to basics by staying connected.”