SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo --
As a mental health professional, a military member and a human being, the recent events at Fort Hood, Texas, hit home. For a tragic second time at the same installation, an individual reached the conclusion they had no better way to cope with distress than to harm their fellow service members. Though we are all members of the profession of arms, turning those arms against each other in uniform is unfathomable.
In the midst of a senseless act such as this, there is a desire to ask: why. Oftentimes, there is no "good" reason; there is no easy answer or justification -- such is the nature of a tragedy. The simplest conclusion is that a troop's stress and frustration exceeded their support structures and their ability to cope with feelings. In looking toward the future, military members are right to ask what can we do from here?
In short, take care of each other -- now more than ever. The fusion of the service's mission and its people remains the key to the success of the Air Force family. The shooting at Fort Hood re-emphasizes the importance of identifying stressors that harm as well as the positive sources of strength that make each of us healthy and resilient. It is also a reminder, for all the wrong reasons, of the importance of being good wingmen every hour of every day.
It is the responsibility of officers and enlisted at all levels to take care of other service members above, below, and beside them in rank. Good leaders recognize there is no competition between taking care of the mission and its people -- they are intertwined and to sacrifice one is to lose the other. My favorite description of leadership is one who gets a job done and you look forward to working with him or her again. These are the leaders who actively support and develop their troops. They know when their troops are doing well; they also know them well enough to recognize when something is amiss.
Knowing your co-workers means talking with them outside of the mission or at the water cooler. It means taking time out of a saturated schedule to understand what allows them to thrive. What puts the wind back in their sails? What helps them re-fuel in a healthy way? In the mental health community, we call these things support structures and positive coping mechanisms. When we take the time to know our co-workers, and can identify when things are going well, we are more likely to recognize and intervene when things are not going well. It makes being a wingman natural.
Take a moment to better understand and appreciate the people in your workplace. It's not only a road to better supporting and building resiliency with those around you, but also an investment in the Air Force mission. Healthy and well-appreciated Airmen take pride in their diverse roles. They are cohesive in day-to-day operations and even more so in trying times such as these.
If there is anything the Fort Hood shooting should affect across the Air Force, it is a greater interest and investment in the wellbeing of the Airman beside you.
(Editor's note: Capt. Paul Deutsch is the Deputy Chief of Standards and Evaluations for the Air Force Reserve's 7th SOPS. In his civilian career, Deutsch is a licensed social worker who has interned with the Department of Veterans Affairs and has counseled veterans at the Denver Vet Center.)
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