JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Tex. --
Task Force True North (TFTN) is a Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force-chartered effort to enhance Airman and family well-being, increase resilience, and decrease negative outcomes (suicide, sexual assault, domestic violence and workplace violence). The Task Force underscores the Air Force’s commitment to the health, safety, and well-being of every Airman and their family members so they thrive in both their personal and professional lives.
Inspired by United States Special Operations Command’s Preservation of the Force and Family Program, TFTN begins its three-year beta test this summer at Whiteman AFB, Minot AFB, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, and Beale AFB.
Upon chartering TFTN, General Stephen Wilson observed, “Our Air Force support system has a common goal of serving Airmen and their families, but certain barriers exist which detract from our overall effectiveness. On a personal level, Airmen are known to fear the consequences or stigma that may result from seeking help from our supporting agencies. External risk factors, such as high ops tempo, social and physical isolation, frequent transitions, and age, also put some of our Airmen at heightened risk for negative outcomes. Task Force True North seeks to provide a framework to ensure our Air Force is the healthiest, most resilient and fit force, regardless of the dynamic challenges our Airmen face.
The effort includes five initiatives: 1) a mandatory, robust sponsorship program and one-stop installation welcome center/on-boarding; 2) a Squadron Commander risk and protective factors analysis tool (in partnership with New York University); 3) a Religious Support Team (RST) (Chaplain and Religious Affairs S/NCO) assigned to each beta test group; 4) an Embedded Mental Health Team (EMHT) consisting of four Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) and a Mental Health Tech assigned to each beta test group and subsequently aligned to each squadron; and 5) an Operational Support Team consisting of a Clinical Psychologist, an LCSW, an Exercise Physiologist, a Physical therapist, and a Human Performance Data Technician assigned to the clinic with duties in squadrons identified as being at increased risk for negative outcomes. While the beta test is still in the early stages, Airmen and families that have PCS’d to these installations have provided glowing feedback to wing leadership on their sponsorship/welcome center/on-boarding experiences.
The Squadron Commander risk and protective factors analysis tool (called NORTH STAR), launched Round 1 in November 2017, and will have subsequent rounds every 6 months. The instrument uses unit member feedback via an anonymous survey to identify secretive problems (suicidality, alcohol misuse, and domestic partner abuse) that Airmen are facing in their lives. Based on those results, the squadron leadership team works directly with a psychologist from NYU to understand the issues and build an intervention plan that provides the Airmen in the unit with light touch (self-help) tools (an article or a smart phone app or something along those lines) they can use if they’re struggling with a secretive problem. Since it’s anonymous and the Commander provides the tools to the unit as a population (not targeting any one person), Airmen are empowered to make their own decision.
Although the EMHTs are just beginning to flow into the squadrons now, Commanders, Superintendents and First Sergeants are ready to receive and are looking forward to the impact these providers will have on their Airmen and families.