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Clinicians address mental health at recruiting summit

  • Published
  • By Lauren Russell
  • 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Mental health professionals from the 66th Medical Squadron hosted an all-service summit here March 29 to collaborate on ways to support recruiters and their families.  

Medical professionals, leaders, and recruiters from around New England and New York came together to discuss the unique stressors and barriers to care that exist for recruiters throughout the region.

Recruiters typically serve as a special duty, meaning it’s a temporary assignment outside of their military specialty. They are responsible for canvasing their assigned areas to man the armed forces, which often results in being geographically separated from their units and available resources.

“Recruiters have a difficult and crucial mission, and we need to make sure they know we’re here for them and that we care,” said Maj. John Blue Star, 66 MDS Mental Health Flight commander.

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said last month during the Air and Space Forces Association Warfare Symposium that recruiting trends project a 10 percent shortfall in 2023.

According to Blue Star, recruiters in the Northeast region are at the highest risk for burnout, and often the furthest from resources.

Depending on locations, it’s possible for recruiters to find support through sister-service installations closer to them, but even then, resources can be limited to case-by-case factors.

The 319th Recruiting Squadron, headquartered here, has approximately 80 personnel assigned throughout New England, as well as Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

“While those stationed throughout the region can receive support through Hanscom organizations, it can be more than a five-hour drive for some to receive routine care,” said Master Sgt. William Lloyd, 319 RCS first sergeant, referencing a squadron member assigned near Bangor, Maine.

In addition to military members, Lloyd said they’re also looking to provide better support to family members.

“It’s not just the service member who is separated from the unit, their families are also missing the connectedness of their military community,” said Lloyd.

Senior leaders in attendance agreed that finding consistent means to support geographically separated members, and shifting the perception of treatment, is a priority across branches.

“There is a vulnerability around treatment because we either don’t think we should, or that we have it figured out on our own,” said Col. Taona Enriquez, installation commander. “We all have something [we’re working through], and it’s okay to look for help.”

Manny Paula, Hanscom’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Program manager, said while there is work to be done, he is seeing the culture around mental health treatment trend proactively.

Paula and Blue Star agreed while there is work to be done, they are confident the partnerships and courses of actions developed through the summit will help drive tangible change for troops.

“It will take more than one meeting to fix the problem, just like it takes more than one treatment meeting and session,” said Paula. “But we’re on the right path.”