It takes a village

  • Published
  • By Maj. Debra Jackson
  • 28th Communications Squadron commander
"It takes a village to raise a child."

Some people know this to be an African proverb while others know it to be a book by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on her vision for American children. However, I believe it to be applicable to the Air Force community with one change -- "It takes a village to raise an Airman".

We'd like to think every Airman understands the Air Force is a community, a place where people care about others and where commanders, supervisors, first sergeants, and co-workers will pitch-in to help when things get difficult. However, not every Airman comprehends this and may feel lonely without knowing where to turn for help.

Those of us who have been in the Air Force for many years know there are a plethora of resources available to assist these Airmen. We need to get this message out, every chance we have, when one of our Airmen requires help.

Some people may say, "Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, I did," and this may be true for some Airmen, but others might be lost. For these Airmen, coping through overspending, sexual escapades, or drugs and alcohol may feel like an escape. However, these actions are neither productive for the Airman nor the Air Force community and are usually only a temporary fill with long-term repercussions.

For this reason, we must lead Airmen in the right direction to prevent them from going down the wrong path. Even in this fast-paced environment, we have to take time to know our Airmen and what is going on in their lives. With less manpower to do the actual mission, it is tough to step away and interact but it is an absolute must. It may take a few hours after the duty day, but it is worth it to communicate with each other at all levels to be able to aid Airmen with issues they may have. They are not alone and certainly aren't the first person to have gone through the circumstances facing them. We all encounter so much noise on a daily basis but we have to make a conscious effort to take time to determine how we can best interact with each other to truly help troubled Airmen.

An old favorite saying of mine is "Each one, Teach one"...We need to teach each other about the available resources and remind Airmen it's alright to ask for help. This requires that we leave behind the automatic judgment and criticism of the Airman who is asking the question.

Additionally, we have to remember not everyone has our experience. The situation may be new to the Airmen and they may not know what to do. For answers to these questions, the network of senior and mid-tier leadership is a large conglomerate of resources. If one of them doesn't know the answer, there are other sources to contact for any given situation. Don't assume the Airman understands all aspects without discussing all pertinent information associated with the situation, as well as the consequences of action or inaction.

Furthermore, Airmen at all levels need to know they can approach the mid-to-senior level management and they won't be causing additional work by asking for assistance. It is our responsibility as leaders to get the right information and remove the roadblocks ensuring the premium solution for Airmen and the Air Force.

Once the base or local community agencies are involved, we need to work together as a community to get the best possible result. We can do this by continuing to act as a team once the member is being treated, counseled or working a course of action to identify any possible digression. Wingmen and supervisors tend to notice differences first, while first sergeants and commanders can see overall patterns of change in behaviors.

The entire team is essential in developing Airmen into productive members of the Air Force. Life is a lot easier when part of a network of family and friends. This network includes Wingmen, supervisors, first sergeants, chiefs, flight commanders and commanders who are here to help you.