‘Airmen Prevail’ transforms peer mental health crisis support

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Megan Geiger
  • 62d Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Team McChord first sergeants host a three-day peer support symposium for junior enlisted Airmen at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, Jan. 29 - 31, 2024.

The “Airmen Prevail” symposium is a course designed for Airmen to learn skills to identify and effectively respond to peers undergoing mental health crises, ensuring quality-of-life enhancements to best support and strengthen Airmen and family resilience.

“One of the things we identified is that junior enlisted Airmen get a lot of training on taking care of their own mental health and getting the resources they need but not as much on how to identify what might be going on with their teammates,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Adam Misner, the 627th Force Support Squadron first sergeant. “Let’s teach the Airmen how to notice, observe, spot, respond and communicate whenever their peers might be going through problems and how to get them the resources they need.”

Team McChord’s First Sergeant Counsil created the Airmen Prevail program to educate, empower and develop Airmen to be a resource and advocate for their peers. First sergeants from various units and representatives from the support services, including the Military Family Life Counselor program (MFLC), the Integrated Prevention and Resilience Office (IPRO), the chaplain’s office and behavioral health, instructed the class throughout the course. The organizations teach Airmen skills to recognize mental health crises, suicide warning signs, identify social cues, how to initiate difficult conversations and improve communication techniques. The purpose of the course is to provide Airmen these skills because their unique position as peers allows them to connect more closely with others of the same rank tier at work as well as off-duty.

The course was launched in the fall of 2023, and this is the second iteration of the program. The 27 Team McChord Airmen who attended represented nearly every unit, and the first sergeants and the Airmen hope the program will continue to grow.

“This course is great for wingmen to be first responders to prevent suicide,” said Senior Airman Robert Artalejo, a 62d Aircraft Maintenance integrated avionics technician.

The Airmen Prevail symposium is currently unique to Team McChord. Their goal is to continue growing the program to become a standard for Team McChord and to inspire leaders and Airmen at other bases to implement a similar program that can equip our Airmen potentially life-saving skills.