People make it happen: connectedness key to resilient force

  • Published
  • By Col. Abby Ruscetta, Tinker Air Force Base Installation Commander

Teammates, Working for the Department of Defense, whether uniformed, or civilian, brings a shared bond and camaraderie. When we lose a teammate, the impact is significant. Any loss, no matter the cause, is a tragedy.

Our people are our greatest resource. The DoD has some incredible technologies, from the fifth-generation fighters, long range supersonic bombers, unmanned aerial drones, to 3D manufactured parts and everything in between. There is a common thread to all that tech – people. Our great Airmen and Sailors produce, sustain and support all of it.  

We are mission-focused by nature. It’s what we do, why we train, why we serve. Mental health is critical to our ability to stay mission focused as well as the safety of all. I might argue that it’s one of the most important factors relating to readiness.

Connectedness is a key to a resilient force. Personally, I understand the importance of connectedness…and what happens when it fades.  When I was a squadron commander, I had a very tough time balancing a newborn, a large maintenance squadron, and a demanding deployment schedule all while retiring a portion of our fighter fleet. It was rough.  Then my husband PCS’d to another state and I quickly realized I needed help.  My sense of connectedness began to slip through my fingers, and I was allowing competing needs to crush me.  I sought out the base Military & Family Life Counseling Services (MFLC) and set up recurring meetings.  I had to reach out for help to ensure I stayed grounded and made good decisions. I was terrified that I would make bad decisions on days when I felt so alone.  The MFLC was instrumental in helping me regain my strength at a time I felt so empty.  So, it matters, and I get it.  Reach out for help.  Ask others to connect. Build yourself a support network—you will need it when you least expect it. 

We are committed to fostering a culture that values and encourages help-seeking behavior and enhances individual confidence, knowledge, and skill in accessing appropriate helping resources. We have a vast number of resources available: mental health counselors, chaplains, and military family readiness professionals stand ready to help. The Integrated Prevention & Resilience Office is a great resource for individuals and units. Our AF Connect mobile app (available for download on the Apple App and Google Play Store) has a “Helping Agencies” feature that includes both on and off base helping agency info. There is also a Leadership Toolbox on our AF Connect app to assist leaders at all levels.

It is imperative that anyone in need seeks help; seeking the help you need is a sign of strength. We must overcome the stigma that this will hurt a career or that you might be considered weak. Stay connected with your peers and leadership. Face-to-face communication is the best way to nurture relationships, which is crucial in times of need.

To quote Rear Adm. (Ret.) Grace Hopper, “Leadership is a two-way street, loyalty up and loyalty down. Respect for one’s superiors; care for one’s crew.”

I fully expect leaders at all levels to foster a culture of respect and care. Connectedness is a protective factor – connect with your team, not only as a leader but as a Wingman. We are stronger together.

The nation asks a lot of us, and you fulfill that request each and every day. You do it with honor and the character that is inherent to the uniform you wear, no matter what that uniform looks like. We are a very small percentage of the population and are entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring America’s freedoms and way of life are not lost.  We are all critical to our national defense.

I will serve you and I will follow you to the best of my ability. We owe ourselves and our teammates a climate where we can thrive and be our best self.   We have a shared responsibility in looking out for each other and fulfilling our nation’s requirements.

One team, one fight – Team Tinker.

NOTE:  Many of you may have seen or heard reports in the news recently regarding deaths of Tinker personnel. While any loss is a tragedy and affects family, friends and coworkers, the majority of loss has been natural causes. As the Installation Commander, I feel it is important to write this editorial to share my thoughts, ensure you know the resources available to you and most importantly let you know that your leadership cares.