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Airmen 4 Life program picks up speed across 15 AF units

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Andrew Satran
  • Fifteenth Air Force

The A4L program, aimed at helping junior enlisted aircraft maintenance Airmen and Non Commissioned Officers are taking flight at the 1st Fighter Wing, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, 20th FW, Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, 23d Wing, Moody AFB, Georgia, and the 552nd Air Control Wing, Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma.

A program that started nearly two years ago at Aviano Air Base, Italy, has swept across maintenance communities to build upon life skills, boost morale, and to strengthen resiliency for maintainers in career fields that require Airmen and NCOs to be physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually ready, anytime, anywhere.

“I am very proud of the work being done for our Airmen’s health and welfare,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael G. Koscheski, 15th Air Force commander. “The Airmen 4 Life program sets the stage for junior Airmen and NCOs to combat stress and more so understand what to do when stress affects them. Learning how to take care of themselves makes them better leaders, wingmen, supervisors, and most of all gives them time back to spend with their family.”

In an article by Aviano AB “31 AMXS creates Airmen for life” there were many reasons they started A4L. Of those were preparing Airmen for life outside the military, mental health, and life skills.

The 552 Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Tinker began their program in November 2021. Since then they held 53 sessions including 10 base support agencies. The curriculum follows the four pillars of Comprehensive Airmen Fitness Program; Mental, Social, Physical and Spiritual, with 35 available topics that cycle on a monthly basis.

Tech. Sgt. Joshua McCalister, 552 AMXS equipment specialist said other organizations have been inquiring about the A4L program.

“The 72nd Air Base Wing and Security Forces Squadron came in and sat in on a session and they are working on a program like ours. It is starting to branch out to other groups, Mental Health is an organization that has been highly requested by Airmen,” said McCalister.

McCalister also stated that they have more people helping to teach from when they first started and 85 to 95 percent of the feedback from Airmen is positive. His team continues to find ways to keep it fresh for the Airmen attending.

At Shaw AFB, many facets of Aviano’s playbook were weaved in, however the primary goal at the 79th Fighter Generation Squadron zeroed in at resiliency with the target audience of Airman Basic through Technical Sergeant. They started their first class on June 7, 2022.

“Our approach is a little different where we focus on the human aspect, because no two people are alike,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Leiah Morley, 79 FGS A4L coordinator. “We took lessons learned from Aviano and scaled it to half-day training on resiliency and life skills, and the other half give the time back for appointments or to spend time with their family.”

According to Morley, the program requires Airmen to attend one day a month, where each month they learn something different each time. This stair-step approach is a 12-month program that allows for information to build from previous classes and helps generate honest feedback for the program. For example, Morley recalled writing bullets (accomplishment statements for evaluations), injury prevention, and how to conduct or receive feedback were among the top asks from the attendees.

Morley emphasized how important this program is for the target audience. She know from experience that people experience adversity, but with resiliency skills, Airmen are able to learn to be happy and healthy.

“My mom was a force of nature,” Morley said. “I took emergency leave when I found out she had stage-4 cancer. I was a Staff Sergeant then. She didn’t give up and when she was in the hospital, she decided she wanted to die at home with our family. It was really scary, the last two weeks were the toughest.”

That moment in her life helped her, along with her leadership, shape the current program. To her, this program has become a driving force to help Airmen. She initially sought feedback from peers, squadron staff, identified trends, recruited speakers, and then built the lessons.

Currently they have 30 resiliency lessons, six professional military education and three personal lessons such as understanding the GI Bill, and 12 electives teaching how to cook, buy a car, connect with a spouse, and yes, mom and dad would be happy for this one, how to do laundry. Out of all of the lessons and discussions that cycle over the course of 12 months, each class begins with a chat.

An Air Combat Command Bridge Chat ignites every A4L class that opens up dialogue and discussion with any variety of topics like the ‘Power of Diversity’ to ‘Healthy Relationships’. Following the chat are lessons that are grouped by the four resiliency pillars, for example the Mental and Emotional Pillar lessons range from ‘Emotional Intelligence’ to ‘Recognizing Burnout’. The class wraps with a sport or physical activity and then Airmen are released. Airman 1st Class Jeremiah Benjamin, 79th FGS weapons journeyman, attended the A4L program and said it was interactive learning where the class was able to have discussions about the topics, and for him ‘Stress Management’ helped him the most.

“I’m not a mechanical person but I’m learning. It stresses me out,” Benjamin said referring to his training on the job. “Before the class I was stressing out with overthinking things and messing up. The program has helped me learn to stay calm in a stressful environment.”

Chief Master Sgt. Sonia Lee, 15th Air Force command chief, says that the program is something that every installation needs to have.

“I’m happy to see this program give Airmen the life skills to be successful personally and professionally, more importantly happy overall serving in the military. Often the missions we do are challenging and it puts a lot of stress on our Airmen, especially our younger folks who are finding their way in the Air Force,” said Lee. “For the future of our Airmen and the teams they lead, we hope to see more of these programs branch out to other career fields, and strengthen our Airmen and their family’s lives to continue to be happy and healthy serving in the world’s greatest Air Force.”