JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. --
In August 2019, United States Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein directed a resilience tactical pause (RTP) in response to a spike in suicides. Before the year’s end, Headquarters USAF developed an RTP Playbook with ideas and information to help leaders build stronger connections and support networks across units and installations.
Acting on feedback that bubbled up from RTP discussions, Air Combat Command’s (ACC) Directorate of Manpower, Personnel and Services (A1) partnered with the Public Affairs (PA) team to develop a new website exclusively focused on resources that will build resiliency, improve diversity, and prevent violence. They chose to call it The Bridge because it will connect ACC leaders, supervisors, teammates, and families when actively used.
The Bridge contains quick links to Air Force and DoD resilience and prevention-focused programs, plus reference materials and senior leader perspectives grouped into three core resource areas: Equip, Engage, Empower.
“We want leaders and teammates in every corner of ACC to navigate the site and find inspiration for specific issues that could dilute human potential and effectiveness,” said Col. Ronald E. Cheatham, ACC A1, Director of Manpower, Personnel and Services. “This web-based platform is a gateway for our geographically separated teammates to build connections with their larger ACC family no matter where they live or work.”
The A1 Integrated Community Services Division, led by Mrs. Sara Wilson, strives to make valuable resources accessible to all, and flexible enough to work in any environment. Their goal is to ensure the right kinds of support get channeled to people when and where they need it. “Data collected through formal surveys and community action crosstalk sessions remind us that effective units make resilience part of their regular unit battle rhythms,” said Mrs. Wilson. Anyone that needs a helping hand or dose of inspiration will find plenty of it on The Bridge.
“We are so impressed by initiatives being developed across the command”, Wilson continued. “As we visit installations and learn how units are taking resilience and prevention to the next level, we knew it would be important to showcase these creative efforts so others would be inspired to benchmark and adapt them for their own use. Kudos to the leadership teams who’ve empowered personnel to bring their good ideas to life. Look for the “showcase” summaries posted in the “empower” section of The Bridge to see how our talented people are connecting with each other in meaningful ways. If any team has a good idea they want featured on the website or shared with a wider group of resilience and prevention champions at their installation, please reach out to your wing’s community support coordinator or send an email to ACCA1.A1Z.CommunitySupport@us.af.mil for ACC/A1Z action and response.”
“Last year’s resilience tactical pause was useful and eye-opening. People truly appreciated the time spent in thoughtful small group discussions and told us they wanted more connection,’” Wilson said. “Creating more of these opportunities will help us relate to each other on a deeper level so we can maximize the diversity of backgrounds, experiences, and ideas that exist within our units.”
ACC A1 recently launched a speed networking event to get people away from their desks so they could engage with and learn more about their teammates who work down the hall or in another directorate. These sessions break the ice with colleagues and give us a refreshing mental break from the tasks and meetings that drive our duty day. “What I love about speed networking is that questions used to prompt discussion focus on our personal interests, goals, and lifestyle preferences in a light and fun way.” said Capt. Sophia Konopka, ACC A1K executive officer. “It feeds our creative, social needs and can help us find new friends to spend time with outside of work.”
Wilson said TED talks are another example of how units can build morale and connections with their Airmen.
“There are motivational TED talks on hundreds of topics, so it’s easy to find a video clip that nicely supports the time available for a team discussion. Watching a video and making time for crosstalk is a great way to learn how different people feel or respond to any given subject. The insights gained through these informal discussions are useful later when we are working with each other to plan and execute the mission,” Wilson said. “Exposing the team to new information and perspectives can help us discover strengths we never knew he had.”
Wilson said her team developed a series of Bridge Chat topics to make it easy for units to continue the goodness started with the resilience tactical pause. They can be found under the “engage” section of the site.
“People want to feel safe and supported by members of their team and need outlets to share pain or struggles as they occur. Being able to talk through difficult situations helps us find perspective and purpose,” Wilson said. “The Bridge is designed to improve our connections with each other, so units and people can be resilient and strong. I've been blown away by the people who are building these great initiatives to help others.”
“I would like everybody to know that the process of building connections and showing concern for each other can occur everywhere and anywhere. There is not one person or office that is the master for making a difference,” Wilson said. “If you've created an event or activity that improves connections with specific groups of people, we want to share those ideas on The Bridge and have them spark and multiply elsewhere. The ultimate goal is to have our ACC community tackle stressful issues together, so every teammate can respond well and rebound quickly.”