Chief’s View: Year of the Air Force Family an observance that should never end

Chief Master Sgt. Dwight Badgett, command chief master sergeant, Air Force Reserve Command

Chief Master Sgt. Dwight Badgett, command chief master sergeant, Air Force Reserve Command

Citizen Airman/Dec. 09 -- The Air Force is a family in almost every sense of the word. We may not be physically related, but we work together, play together and live together as a team with a joint purpose.

Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley and Chief of Staff Norton Schwartz have designated July 2009 to July 2010 as the Year of the Air Force Family. We need to take this year to understand the multitude of programs in place to support our Airmen and add initiatives for our people -- commissioned, enlisted and civilian -- where needed.

Each of us, including spouses and children, is a very important part of our family, and we need to work to improve the support we provide to every Airman. This celebration recognizes the dedication, sacrifice and service each Airman and family member displays every day.

Air Force Reserve Command will concentrate on three of the four pillars identified by the secretary and chief to make sure we are using every available program to improve the lives of our teammates. The three pillars are: education, development and employment; Airman and family support; and health and wellness.

You will hear more about these pillars in the coming months, but the overall purpose of this year-long recognition is to raise awareness of the many products, services and events available, assess our quality of service, revive a sense of community and culture, and expand and enhance our support initiatives.

There are so many education, development and employment opportunities for Airmen and their families that we couldn't list them all in this limited space. But a few include the Post-9/11 Gi Bill, Air University Associate-to-Baccalaureate Cooperative, in-state tuition initiatives, school liaison officers, spouse tuition assistance programs, general education mobile agreements for students pursuing a Community College of the Air Force degree and much more.

The goal of Airman and family support is to highlight efforts to adjust, expand and standardize programs and services to foster an ideal community for Airmen and families. We can do this by improving our youth health and fitness program, offering new leadership training to enhance family support staff capabilities, strengthening the Key Spouse Program, providing military family life consultants at each base/unit for non-medical counseling, and improving partnerships with local and national youth programs like Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

Health and wellness is more important now than ever. We have to highlight access, care, support and tools to encourage and maintain healthy and fit Airmen and families.
Each of these areas is directly related to the quality of life that we as Airmen should enjoy. Programs already exist to provide psychological health advocates in five regions, grants to start or improve Airmen ministry centers, host marriage enrichment retreats/seminars, improve Yellow Ribbon Reintegration support opportunities, and work with our returning warriors to facilitate recovery and rehabilitation.

All the support programs in the world will never replace our commitment to be a steadfast wingman for our teammates. When we watch out for each other, we find that we can solve most problems by simply being supportive and being good listeners.

If more help is needed, then we owe it to every Airman to make sure he or she has access to the best care available. As friends and co-workers, you know the people around you better than anyone. Watch for signs that a wingman may need help, and support him any way you can as he works through his issues.

You are an important member of our family, and so are our brother and sister Airmen. We need to take care of ourselves and each other just like a family.

The Year of the Air Force Family is a year that should never end. We will take these initiatives as a stepping stone to improve the lives of our Airmen well past July 2010.

As our country's finest, each of you deserves the best this country and Air Force can provide to keep you healthy and happy. Talk to your command and first sergeant to learn more about the programs available to our Airmen.