Military News

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Wolf Pack Day: A day for resiliency

by Senior Airman Taylor Curry
8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


3/22/2015 - KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea  -- The 8th Fighter Wing took a day to focus on the strategic importance of resiliency here, March 16, during what is now officially called, Wolf Pack Day.

The morning began with a wing-wide "fun run" to not only foster unity but camaraderie amongst the wing. Airmen from all units across base, including deployed members from the 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guard, lined up for a team photo before Kunsan leadership led a two-mile run along the runway.

Following the run, Airmen split into their squadrons to participate in small-group discussions with facilitators leading the group in focusing on suicide prevention.

The training is considered a critical element of the Air Force Suicide Prevention Program, which leverages the wingman culture of Airmen looking out for each other. It also encourages Airmen to seek help early and intervene when a fellow Airman is in distress.

"Suicide is an issue not only in the armed services, but our society as a whole, and all of us share the responsibility of preventing it," said Col. Ken "Wolf" Ekman. "A key part of this is encouraging resiliency, through which we strive to reduce the risk factors that may lead to suicide and help individuals see the warning signs in others.

"To accomplish this, we are dedicating an entire day to small group discussions and group physical activities," he added. "We are also going to look in-depth at warning signs, early intervention, helping resources and following up."

A particular focus of the training was the Ask, Care, and Escort model used when dealing with a fellow Airman in distress. Asking someone if they have thoughts about suicide serves as the first step and is important in early intervention. Caring encourages individuals to take responses seriously and seek helping resources should an individual need it. Last, escorting the individual serves as a protective factor, ensuring that person gets to the help they need.

"Our goal is to arm our Airmen with the skillset to be able to recognize and assist a fellow Airman in distress," said Capt. Claudia Santos, 8th FW sexual assault response coordinator. "Being vigilant and establishing genuine connections with others are important in preventing suicide. Once you get to know someone it increases your ability to recognize a change in a person's behavior, even in its early stages.  This is where wingmen can take the first step to helping that person."

Another focus of the day was discussing the Comprehensive Airman Fitness pillars of social, mental, spiritual and physical fitness.

"Having a balance of each of the four pillars helps ensure an individual is healthy in all aspects of his or her life," said Staff Sgt. Lawrence Robinson, 8th Comptroller Squadron wing staff agencies resource advisor and Wolf Pack Day facilitator. "A noticeable decline in one of these areas can be a sign of distress in an individual's life. When you recognize that in someone, it might be worth it to get involved."

Following the group discussions, the day's activities came to a close with one final event, a "Ruck for the Wounded" event.

Every Airman was invited to participate in a ruck walk and run in remembrance of those who have made sacrifices for their country, while promoting individual and team resiliency. Airmen were encouraged to carry a pack with 25 pounds of weight, while they completed a six-mile ruck.

"The turnout for the ruck was very successful, with more than 300 Airmen in attendance," said Staff Sgt. Jessica Osgood, 8th Medical Operations Squadron family advocacy program NCO in charge. "The reason we did the ruck was to bring something new to Wolf Pack Day. The distance was also longer than most "fun runs," because we wanted to represent the distance we will go to continue to support those who have been wounded, physically or mentally."

The ruck succeeded in bringing units across the base together. Members of the 8th Security Forces Squadron showed up in full battle-rattle along with the 8th Civil Engineer Squadron's fire department donning their fire suits for the run.

"There were also teams that formed in a line, so everyone could cross the finish line at the same time," Osgood added. "I do hope we do something like this again, being it was an amazing turnout, and it was a great way to show our resiliency here at the Wolf Pack!"

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