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NEWS | Nov. 3, 2023

Win as One: Warfighters Connect to Care

By Senior Airman Sergio Avalos 87th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Picture it. Amidst the nonstop energy of an active flight line stands a dedicated Airman consumed in the demands of his duty, the chaos of jet engine roars and radio chatter mirroring the weight of his responsibilities. It's a day like any other, yet today the pressures of the job feel heavier. Unwavering in his commitment to the mission and his teammates, he resists the urge to isolate. Realizing his need for connection, he spots a stranger sporting a bold blue and yellow tab affixed to their uniform - a Warrior Connect tab. He remembers this symbol of support as an opportunity for connection. It's more than a patch; it's a support system any Airmen can lean on.

During the Spring Phoenix Rally at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, Gen. Mike Minihan, commander of Air Mobility Command, stated his three objectives to helping Airmen put their mental health on equal footing with physical fitness and honing their craft: eliminate stigma, lower barriers, and increase access and options to care.

With those three objectives in mind, Ms. Janis Doss, Chief of JB MDL’s Integrated Prevention and Resilience Office, designed the Warrior Connect Program and associated tab. A peer-to-peer support and connectedness program, dedicated to maximizing the visibility of those who can link members with helping agencies. The program is currently in a six-month test phase and only implemented at JB MDL.

Ms. Doss, along with U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Mike Wynne, Command Chief, 87th Air Base Wing, conceptualized the Warrior Connect Program dedicated to reducing the stigma of seeking help for service members, Department of Defense civilians and family members.

“We wanted to develop a clear way to identify individuals with the additional skills to assist members during challenging times,” Doss explained. “The ability for someone to easily identify these individuals when support is needed most could be a life-saving difference for someone in distress.”

Airmen and DoD civilians earn a Warrior Connect tab or pin after becoming certified in Suicide Alertness for Everyone; Tell, Ask, Listen, and KeepSafe (safeTALK) or Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST); obtaining commander or leadership endorsement; interviewing with the JB MDL IPRO team; and completing a one-day Warrior Connect training.

“The goal for this program is to save people,” Doss emphasized. “I also hope that it extends to other installations because there are people out there with the skillsets to provide support, and the Warrior Connect tab makes them easily identifiable.”

Resiliency initiatives like the Warrior Connect Program play a crucial role in strengthening and developing resilient, Multi-Capable Airmen and has already proven successful on the installation.

“While I was shopping at the commissary, someone noticed the tab because it’s extremely bright and vibrant, and asked me what the tab meant,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Connor Runkle, a C-17 Globemaster III crew chief from the 305th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.  “I explained its purpose and how it connects others to helping agencies, which led to a conversation about their problems and helped them access the support they needed.”

In line with Minihan's vision, fostering a "Warrior Heart" culture that deliberately prepares service members’ minds, bodies, and skills for success is crucial. Resilient Airmen and their families are integral to mission accomplishment, providing AMC with a distinct warfighter advantage.

Whether it’s a defender standing guard, a civil engineer swinging a sledgehammer, a crew chief muscling airpower, or a finance troop crunching numbers, they are all a part of something greater. The Warrior Connect Program is for them and everyone in between.

“Our Airmen and their families are too important to the team and to the mission. This Warrior Connect Program is just one way our wings are getting after eliminating stigmas, lowering barriers and increasing access to care,” said Minihan. “This is how we take care of our people and ensure Mobility Airmen can continue to provide a winning edge for America.”