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Wellness Advocacy Team supports Airmen resilience, wellness

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Mackenzie Mendez
  • 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
The 100th Air Refueling Wing is leading the charge on Airman and family health and wellness with the creation of the Royal Air Force Mildenhall Wellness Advocacy Team.

Initiated in October 2020, the Wellness Advocacy Team was created in response to significant challenges related to Airmen’s stress, anxiety, depression, suicide ideation and alcoholism, all of which were amplified in 2020 by COVID-19.

Prior to the implementation of WAT, Mildenhall lacked a sustained in-unit capability to support the overall wellness of Airmen and their families. This gap created an inability for Airmen to reach out at the unit-level and ask for the assistance they need, especially when faced with barriers like a high mission tempo, adjusting to an overseas location or the stigma surrounding getting help from various supporting agencies.

“The program takes an active approach to wellness by meeting Airmen in their work centers regularly and reaching out directly to families,” said Master Sgt. Jamil Vazquez Perez, WAT program manager. “It helps to provide Airmen and their families support before they reach a crisis point. Our advocates are here to build trust among the unit members, make it easier for Airmen to voice their concerns, and ultimately try to get them connected to the help they need.”

The program consists of volunteer Wellness Advocates who focus on providing support to Airmen under the supervision of the WAT Program manager and Sexual Assault Response Coordinator. Wellness Advocates are military members, dependents and Department of Defense civilians who possess a bachelor’s degree in social science, have undergone an in-depth screening and interview process and are highly motivated to help Airmen.

Wellness Advocates are also required to attend a 32-hour wellness training that is focused on improving the quality of response to Airmen under stress before crisis. The weeklong training covers topics ranging from suicide first aid to resiliency training and de-escalation training.

The in-depth training and weekly meetings prepare Wellness Advocates to provide immediate and ongoing support to Airmen by providing resources and information about services offered within the DOD, Air Force and local community. By explaining available resources, mental health and support systems, Wellness Advocates are better able to encourage Airmen to seek out mental health attention when needed and provide Airmen a trained and caring wingman to help them navigate through the challenges of stress.

“I am awed each and every day by the dedication of our Wellness Advocates and the support we have received from the wing leadership team,” said Vazquez. “I am honored to be able to work with so many people who care so much about helping our Airmen and our families. There is no better feeling than knowing that we are making a difference.”

Currently, the WAT has been working in-conjunction with first sergeants in the 100th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 100th Maintenance Squadron and 100th Security Forces Squadron to become part of the unit to reduce and bridge the gap by providing appropriate and timely referral information.

The RAF Mildenhall WAT Program manager and SARC provide 24/7 emergency assistance to Wellness Advocates and members seeking help. Wellness Advocates do not provide any form of clinical mental health counseling or legal, investigative guidance that should be obtained from a certified professional.

For more information about the RAF Mildenhall Wellness Advocacy Team, find them on Facebook or call 238-2163.