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97th IS gains embedded MFLC

Digital patch of the 97th Intelligence Squadron.

Digital patch of the 97th Intelligence Squadron. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Jacob Skovo

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Nebraska --

A Military & Family Life Counselor was embedded within the 97th Intelligence Squadron to provide full time support for the unit at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, on Nov. 27, 2017.

The counselor fills the gap left by the loss of the 97th IS in-house mental health provider whose schedule no longer permitted the part-time annexed care.

The MFLCs provide short-term, non-medical counseling to service members and their families at no cost. As Offutt’s largest squadron, with more than 600 Airmen, the 97th IS has a concentrated demand for counseling.

“We’re not really equipped and trained to talk about our feelings,” said Senior Master Sgt. Edward, 97th IS first sergeant. “We're all taught and designed that we have it all under control, you get in that mindset that you can't fail, or you can't take a step back or take a knee, but it’s okay. We all need to talk to somebody at some point in time, and it’s alright because we all should be trying to find ways to grow.”

By giving Airmen the tools to tame their stressors and communicate with their loved ones, leaders are looking to reduce the impact that a high operations tempo, constant deployments and regular evaluations can have while leading to a better quality of life and readiness.

“It’s an awesome program. I wish we had more, and that at least every group, if not every squadron, was able to have their own embedded MFLC," Edward said. "Having a MFLC embedded helps the Airmen with familiarity and comfort, which is huge when you're talking about people opening up.”

MFLCs are embedded across Offutt AFB, providing life skills and military lifestyle resiliency education. They serve not only service members, but their families as well.

“When my husband deployed in August, our 3-year-old son had a rough time adapting and coping. ... The vice director at the Child Development Center recommended speaking with the MFLC who was part of their staff, so I did,” said Master Sgt. Cassandra, 97th IS section chief for small offices. “She was able to give me tools to help both of us adapt to our new normal. She also spent time in his classroom and gave him individualized attention to help him work through things.”

The environment provided by an MFLC is confidential and strives to be as inviting as possible. The regular exposure to the embedded counselors has the potential to increase how comfortable service members are visiting with a counselor.

“I felt comfortable working with her because she has a plethora of experience working with military children and parents, so while it was uncharted territory for me, she was able to guide us through the 4-month-long deployment,” Cassandra said. “It takes a village to raise children, and when you're mil-to-mil with no family in the area, you have to lean on friends and available resources.”

The 97th IS is working to grant access to the secret compartmentalized information facility for the MFLC. Presently, the Airmen working in the area with secret or top secret information can only say so much during counseling sessions.

“Having her at our Squadron will make her accessible to all members of our unit without them having to go anywhere, just like when I needed her at the CDC,” Cassandra said. “Plus seeing her around on a daily basis will provide a level of comfort and trust that you wouldn't necessarily have if you had to go to clinic or some other location. I expect having her here in the SCIF will have positive result since members aren't able to go home and share details with their support system at home.”