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First Massachusetts Air National Guard mental health technician strives to help Airmen

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Sara Kolinski
  • 104th Fighter Wing/Public Affairs
The four pillars of resilience are physical, social, spiritual, and mental. Staff Sgt. Victoria von den Benken, 104th Medical Group behavioral health technician, will be spending a lot of time in her new Air Force Specialty Code dealing with the last one of those - mental health.

The behavioral health AFSC, which assists mental health professionals and works to develop and implement treatment plans, was originally an AFSC available to active duty members only, however since the beginning of this year it has been available to Air National Guard Airmen at the 104th Fighter Wing as well.

Von den Benken is the first Airman to cross train into the new career field in the Massachusetts Air National Guard and has had to overcome some obstacles on her way to help others.

"The biggest challenges up to this point were determining needed requirements to cross train and COVID-19," said von den Benken. "Since behavioral health was originally an active duty only position, leadership had to figure out ways to accommodate active duty protocol into the guard world, which took time. With that being said, COVID-19 did not help in any way. COVID-19 also delayed all my testing and interview dates. I started the cross training process back in January 2020 and did not officially transfer to the position until 1 July 2020. Luckily this should be different for those interested in the behavioral health career field moving forward."

Von den Benken persevered and is now waiting for technical school dates in order to be able to do what she crossed trained for - to help others.

"I am very thrilled and honored to be the first Airman in mental health at the 104 FW," said von den Benken. "During college, I chose major in psychology because I wanted to help individuals who were struggling internally. Everyday struggles are not just driven by environmental origins. They can be caused by biological and chemical make ups, as well as traumas and stressors; things that we, as humans, have no control over. Within the mental health career field, I hope to help Airmen understand how important your mental health is, how it affects your everyday life, and how it is perfectly normal to say 'I am not ok.'"

Von den Benken said that she is mostly looking forward to being able to expand her knowledge so that she can help individuals to the best of her ability.

"Here at the 104th Fighter Wing, we have such a high tempo, it is so important for Airmen to understand the importance of mental health," said von den Benken. "Leadership is constantly emphasizing individual readiness to get the mission accomplished. This does not just mean "checking boxes" and passing a fitness test. Without a positive and resilient mental health, individuals cannot be ready, and the mission cannot succeed properly. With this being said, I believe this career field is very much needed and I look forward to seeing what comes of it."