Moody inspires culture change with facilitator training

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Daryl Knee
  • 23d Wing Public Affairs

More than 200 Team Moody Airmen received sexual-assault-response and suicide-prevention facilitator training May 17-21, 2021, in an ongoing effort to increase the safety of Airmen throughout the base.

Those Airmen in training represent 5 percent of the population of every squadron at Moody who are now better equipped to guide candid discussions regarding those sensitive topics.

“People normally expect the messaging to come from the offices who handle those issues, but real culture change has to happen in the unit at varying levels,” said Jacinta Howell, Moody’s sexual assault response coordinator and a member of the facilitator training team. “People within the unit delivering the same message in that unit’s specific language makes it more relatable and has more influence than what our offices would have.”

Howell said the Department of the Air Force has mandated an annual training requirement for sexual-assault response and suicide prevention, and until recently, most of those training sessions were conducted in a standardized large-group format. The typical training involved participants seated in front of a projector screen where an expert reviewed a slideshow of information and educational videos.

This method was effective at establishing a baseline of knowledge, but modern research indicates smaller group settings in a more relaxed, organic environment lead to greater overall communication and understanding.

“At a minimum, with the squadron facilitators, people are going to be more willing to ask questions and participate,” said Capt. Kyle Kryder, 71st Rescue Squadron instructor pilot and one of the recently trained facilitators. “The larger briefings did get the information out to the units, but the smaller settings are more comfortable and will help Airmen in getting their issues addressed.”

“It’s all about connectedness,” Howell agreed. “When people are connected and have everyday conversations, Airmen in a work center will feel like they have someone they can trust. They’ll feel more comfortable going to that person when issues arise, and once trust is established, that’s when true communication occurs.”

It has to be an ongoing discussion, she added, because these issues continue to affect all Airmen. Creating a culture of respect and dignity within squadrons is key, and while talking about suicide and sexual assault prevention are annual requirements, it must be year-round conversations.

To further drive that point home, Air Combat Command staff issued guidance this year to all the wings in the command to train facilitators to run those small-group discussion sessions, normally composed of eight to 25 people. Every base could then determine their own method on how many facilitators were needed and how to conduct their training.

By employing that 5 percent of trained Airmen directly from each Team Moody squadron, Howell said she hopes to inspire a grass-roots change and bridge the perceived divide between Air Force senior leaders and frontline supervisors.

“It’s a mixed message when big Air Force is telling our Airmen to seek help or spend time for self-care and some supervisors won’t let them leave the line,” she said about the difficulties some supervisors have of managing the work/life balance. “It makes the Airmen say, ‘Who do I trust and who do I believe?’ We need to get the mid-tier involved with facilitating these discussions to truly form that connection and drive change.”

And the new method of using facilitators at Moody is not just a check-the-box moment, she said. The hope is to continue growing leaders who are comfortable with difficult conversations by engaging Airmen during other education opportunities, such as the First Term Airman Center, Airman Leadership School and the NCO Professional Enhancement Seminar.

“It’s good for this big push to transfer ownership of the sessions from the top to the squadron level,” Kryder said. “This is definitely going to be value added.”