An MQ-9 Reaper sits on the flight line at Hurlburt Field, Fla., May 3, 2014.The MQ-9 Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Staff Sgt. John Bainter)


Duke Field prepares for "tactical pause"

  • Published
  • By Col. Kevin Merrill
  • 919th Special Operations Wing Commander
The 919th Special Operations Wing will take a “tactical pause” Sunday, Oct. 6, to focus on the health of our Citizen Air Commandos and their families.

This Resiliency Tactical Pause will enable us to discuss ways that we can improve our strategies for defeating an adversary that is killing more of our Airmen than any enemy on the planet – suicide.

Tragically, our Air Force has seen an alarming increase in the number of suicides this year. Since the beginning of January, the Air Force has lost 79 Airmen to suicide. We are losing Airmen to suicides every two and a half days, an increase of 28 lives lost at the same time last year. Unless we break the cycle, the Air Force could lose more than 150 Airmen to suicide this year alone.

We value each and every member of this unit. Our culture recognizes the special operations member is the weapons system. The SOF truths appropriately acknowledge “Humans are more important than hardware.”  Leaders in this unit—past and present—have committed significant resources focused on building resiliency in our members so they are prepared to respond to our demanding mission. This approach in itself, however, simply is not enough.

The intent of the tactical pause is to enable leaders at all levels to connect with their Airmen, and for Airmen to connect with each other. We will use this period to gain valuable insight and learn how we can better support each other. Success will depend on our ability to generate open, honest and candid conversations. In an effort to aid these discussions, we will have experienced facilitators in the units to help guide these important conversations.

My expectation is that we will use this time to help us get to know each other on a deeper level. By truly knowing one another, we’ll have a much better chance of recognizing when something is wrong and offering help before it’s too late. At the end of the day, you should feel empowered with the tools and skills necessary to recognize a friend, family member, or teammate in distress and engage with them.

Additional details on the Resiliency Tactical Pause will be provided shortly as we seek to create a positive, collaborative environment in every organization – an atmosphere where each person feels comfortable asking, and offering, help when needed.  We absolutely must have each other’s backs.

I look forward to meeting and hearing from each of you. I am amazed every day by what you do and your dedication to this demanding mission. Thanks to you and your families for your service.