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The Most Important Weapon System: The Human Weapon System
By Col. Patrick Dawson, 55th Medical Group commander
/ Published January 31, 2012
OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. --
Per Brig. Gen. Donald Bacon, 55th Wing commander, "over the past year, we have continually strived for excellence and compliance, to do things the right way, instead of the easy way. Our hard work and dedication were validated through our performance in 37 inspections, including our astounding 99 percent compliance during our latest unit compliance inspection. Additionally, our support to our 50 partner units here at Offutt, including U.S. Strategic Command, allowed them to get their vital missions done. 55th Wing aircraft flew everyday of the year, for the fourth consecutive year. Thirty-one of our aircraft responded to short-notice deployments and our Fightin' Fifty Fifth crews logged more than 30,000 flight hours and flew more than 4,800 sorties over six theaters, while our airborne and ground-based maintainers spent thousands of hours achieving an exceptional mission capability rate. For the first time in recent memory, all seven of our wing's aircraft variants were deployed abroad at the same time." Undoubtedly, this has been a very busy and successful year for the great men and women of the 55th Wing.
The Air Force consistently inspects our programs to ensure that we are complying with the minimal standards of functioning. Yet, our Airmen remain our most important weapon system. How often do we consider inspecting ourselves to ensure we are complying with standards? Better yet, how do we ensure that we are not just complying minimally, but functioning at our peak; our maximal performance? The 55th Medical Group challenges you to do that today.
Maximal performance insists that we not only focus on the obvious; our physical health. It also insists on the other areas foundational to health; social, emotional, psychological and spiritual health. The 55th Medical Group covers each of these functions throughout a full spectrum of healthcare services. We encourage each of you to examine these areas and discuss them within your units.
First, physical health can be improved by preventive programs such as good nutrition, fitness, physical exercise and regular health check-ups. The Offutt Health and Wellness Center offers nutritional classes and information to assist with better eating habits, exercise regimes and resources to assist you to stop smoking. Consider measuring yourself in the HAWC's Bod-Pod to assess your body mass index.
Within our primary care clinics, our family health clinic has fully transformed to the Family Health Initiative model of medicine promoting continuity of care between you and your provider. By adopting this model, we established a two-provider team who will be responsible for your routine health care. Only your provider or the provider's assigned colleague will see you in future appointments. To maximize your physical health, we recommend maintaining both preventive care as well as routine care. If you do find yourself ill after hours, contact our 24/7 nurse triage line (232-CARE). They will discuss your symptoms and potentially direct you to the closest urgent care clinic to your specific residence or location. Of course, anytime you feel life, limb or eyesight is endangered, you should always go directly to your closest emergency room without delay.
Second, the other areas of health should also be addressed. The 55th Medical Group partners with many community agencies, such as the chaplain service and the Offutt Airmen and Family Readiness Center. This activity supports a very robust integrated delivery system. This partnership provides you with many supportive resilience building programs. These include: a couple's prevention and relationship enhancement program, anger management, Parent University, Healthy Thinking, marital retreats and Key Spouse programs.
We also have programs targeting families who face pre / post deployment situations. These programs address family separations, challenges or difficulties experienced during / after combat or deployment zones, and marital and parenting dynamics. We sponsor many activities directed toward the prevention and treatment of substance abuse and the reduction of driving under the influence cases.
Additionally, the 55th Medical Group conducts pre / post deployment Airmen resiliency training. This is aimed at enhancing the resilience and peak performance of Airmen, strengthening mind, body and spirit using a skills-based approach. Resilience and recovery are two discrete and empirically separable outcome trajectories following trauma. Taking advantage of the emerging science of resilience psychology, the newly erected 55th Medical Group Mental Health Resiliency Element is designing programs to develop resiliency skills and strengths. Its mission: "to develop the ability to withstand and grow in the face of stressors and changing demands". Recovery from stressful experiences is not the objective outcome of these recently developed programs, growth towards a better future is.
The 55th Medical Group enthusiastically promotes activities which focus on enhancing the military family and your team. In order to maximize teamwork and unit production, we must ensure each of our teammates is functioning at topnotch levels. This includes ensuring sleep, concentration, appetite and mood remain consistent.
The hype that surrounds stress leads many to believe they are helpless victims who believe relief from stress is the responsibility of somebody else (commander or employer) to remove. Removal of stress does not build but, rather cripples individuals from personal growth. History demonstrates people who own their reactions when struggling with extreme pressures and disruptive changes choose their attitudes, and develop behavioral habits that create bridges to a better future.
Look for a variety of events, or request something specific for your unit that will help identify members who are struggling and may need assistance to return to normal levels of functioning. Too often, Airmen suffer depression which can lead to substance abuse and impulsivity. This deadly combination may drive some to consider or act upon suicidal or homicidal thoughts. Our Air Force cannot afford the loss of even one individual. As wingmen, we must look out and reach out to one another in these times of need. By coming together, we ensure our social, emotional, spiritual and psychological functioning stay in peak performance mode.
So, as you review your personal inventory, consider calling or visiting the 55th Medical Group to learn more about any of these programs. Our prevention teams located in the HAWC as well as the mental health flight are standing by -ready to help our fellow Airmen. Remember, the human weapon system is the most important entity in our Air Force. We look forward to seeing you!