• Published
  • By Gen. Edward A. Rice
  • AETC Commander
As commander of Air Education and Training Command, when someone in our AETC family hurts, I hurt. That's why I take mishap prevention and resiliency so seriously.

For me, it's personal.

Last summer when the tire blew out on an Airman's vehicle causing it to roll, he was ejected from the car because he had neglected to fasten his seat belt. He died from his injuries, leaving behind a grieving family, many friends and coworkers.

It's personal.

Only two days later, another Airman was distracted while driving after his cell phone fell off of his lap and he reached to pick it up. That split-second distraction caused him to cross the centerline and collide head-on with an ambulance. He died, as did two of his civilian passengers -- all of whom had family and friends who shed countless tears in mourning their loss.

It's personal.

When an instructor pilot ignored the rules by texting while flying and performed an unauthorized fly-by, he endangered himself and risked the life of his student.

It's personal.

And it's not just ground mishaps or lapses in flight discipline claiming the lives of our loved ones. Last year, six AETC family members became so distraught that they saw no other way to alleviate their burdens, so they took their own lives. These people weren't just statistics; they had mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, spouses and children who still miss them so dearly that it hurts.

Yes, it's personal.

People sometimes erroneously draw the conclusion that those who cause mishaps or take their own lives were probably underachievers or mediocre workers. But in actuality, most of the people we lost to suicides and mishaps last year were extremely good or even stellar performers. ... But, aren't top performers supposed to be resilient?

Well, being resilient isn't just about job performance. Nor is it just about preventing mishap fatalities and suicides. Resiliency is mental, social, physical and spiritual well-being that propels our everyday lives. It leads us to prosper, make good decisions and overcome adversity. It's eating right, sleeping well and exercising. It's spending time with family and friends. It's job satisfaction. It's finding that necessary balance in your life that helps you cope with virtually any situation thrown your way. It's the peace of mind of knowing and trusting that you can lean on family, friends and your wingmen when situations seem desperate or things seem their lowest.

Our service members are facing frequent deployments, increased operational demands, budget and personnel cuts, and dramatic changes in the way we do business. After serving in combat locations, many come home having to reintegrate into their family life. Our ability to handle these stressors is going to determine our short- and long-term effectiveness. To that end, the Air Force launched the Comprehensive Airman Fitness initiative to reinforce resilience training principles and offer more help and guidance to our personnel. It's not only about encouraging members to find the courage and talk about their problems, but also for their wingmen to truly listen and stay attuned to those around them.

Around AETC, we are making strides along those lines. Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, has set up a "Cup of Prevention" -- a mental health staff monthly visit to units with coffee and resilience tips. Keesler AFB, Miss., offers a weekly DUI prevention briefing called "Drunk Busters." Laughlin AFB, Texas, holds an annual adventure race. Luke AFB, Ariz., sponsors a spouse talk and tour. And Randolph AFB, Texas, conducts the "Wellness Wars." These types of programs are going on throughout the command.

Additionally, AETC launched the Air Force Virtual Wingman Smart Phone Application, which with the touch of a finger allows you to access such helpful tools as the suicide prevention hotline, risk management guidance, and an Airman's guide for assisting personnel in distress, to name a few.

But these initiatives only work if we take advantage of them.

So as we head into that high-risk time of year known as the Critical Days of Summer, let's commit to improving our resiliency by evaluating our own mental, social, physical and spiritual well-being. Let's maintain our focus. Let's work to strengthen our relationships -- whether with a spouse, a friend or a co-worker. Let's make a pact to be the best Airmen, the best wingmen. Let's look out for one another.

Let's all take it personally.