Top Enlisted Airman Addresses Quality-of-Life Issues
By Sarah Lifshin
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 24, 2010 As Air Force leaders work to improve the quality of life for airmen and their families, suicide prevention is among their top priorities, the service’s top enlisted airman said.
Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Roy holds a question-and-answer session while visiting airmen during a combat skills training exercise at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-in Lakehurst, N.J., April 27, 2010. U.S. Air Force photo by Carlos Cintron
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The suicide rate for all four services in 2009 was higher than the national average, defense officials said. The Air Force reported 41 suicides among active-duty airmen in 2009.
In a May 20 interview for a Pentagon Channel series examining servicemembers’ quality of life, Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Roy stressed the importance of helping troops and their families meet the challenges they face so suicide doesn’t enter the picture.
“Any time we have someone who would take their own life and [apply] such a permanent solution to such a temporary concern or condition is specifically alarming to many of us, and it is something we need to focus on,” he said.
“We need to give our airmen and their families the tools to be able to work through these particular concerns and challenges within their lives,” Roy said. “We want to make sure we give these airmen the tools to manage those stressors of both deployments and day-to-day activities.”
Another top concern is servicemembers’ resilience, Roy said. “As we look at [resilience] programs, we look at all the elements mentally, physically and socially, and putting these together and giving the tools to our people,” he said.
That, he said, includes keeping an eye on managing the deployment cycle, from training to deployment to reintegration.
In other quality-of-life improvement efforts, Roy said, the Air Force is focusing on providing more support to special-needs families through the Exceptional Family Member Program. It is important, he said, to support not only the family member in the program, but also the entire military family.
Quality of life is a key issue in recruiting, Roy noted, adding that Air Force recruiting for fiscal 2010 is on track to meet or exceed the service’s goals.
“As I go out there and visit recruiting stations, I am always excited about our young airmen out there who are doing these missions,” he said. “They are really the face of the Air Force in a lot of different ways. [Recruiters] bring these young airmen, these young trainees, in to us, and we are able to transform them into airmen.”
Meanwhile, efforts continue to focus on how to accommodate families while providing on-base housing for unmarried airmen, Roy said. Privatized housing, including amenities such as pools and community centers, he said, are allowing families to move back onto base. By 2016, Roy added, the Air Force aims to offer adequate on-base housing to all accompanied airmen, with new housing provided for unaccompanied or single airmen by 2017.
New residency programs, such as “Dorms for Airmen,” provide housing for unaccompanied airmen within shared, quad-like living areas, Roy said.
“Our airmen are doing a fabulous job,” he said. “Regardless of where I travel to, I meet with airmen doing amazing things.
“When you think about what our airmen are doing in the joint and coalition fight today,” Roy continued, “all too often we only focus on those who are deployed; our 40,000 airmen deployed around the globe every single day doing America’s business.”
Another 160,000 airmen stationed stateside or at overseas locales besides Iraq or Afghanistan, Roy said. Those airman, he said, “deployed in place, are simply employed by a combatant commander at this particular location doing America’s job every single day, doing its mission.”