By Lt. Col. Michael Tomm, 21st Contracting Squadron commander
/ Published September 05, 2014
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Why do I need suicide prevention training? I know for certain I am not going to commit suicide. Why do I need sexual assault and prevention training repeatedly? I am confident I will not harass a fellow member, especially one of my troops, or find myself at a party as portrayed in the vignettes in the training. Why did I have to have eight hours of sexual assault training in order to train others for the required four hours?
Why? A word used more often today from the bestselling leadership book "Start with Why" to the mantra of the millennials. But nowadays I don't find myself asking why? Over the last couple of years, I have learned that it is not about me but others. The others include my troops, my fellow sister service members, or recently my cadet members at the Air Force Academy. I used to take the training at face value, but these days for awareness of what my roles and responsibilities are as a commander and an Airman. Knowing what mandatory reporting is and being aware of the helping agencies that can provide assistance like the Military and Family Life counselors are just a few valuable resources I have learned from training.
Prior to training I never knew these counselors could provide such an incredible service while meeting members at a location most convenient for them. Then, during a deployment, I overhead a disturbing phone call down the hall. A sister service member I had come to know was using loud, profane and derogatory language. Turns out he was yelling at his wife for cheating on him with his brother. When I went to check on the individual and I asked the question that some use lightly "Are you thinking of harming yourself or others?" The eventual answer was "No sir," and that was good to hear (as I looked to locate his weapon) but it forced him to realize how I perceived the seriousness of the situation.
Of course I'm not a trained professional and I contacted the proper personnel to ensure the member was not just OK but had the resources to compose himself. At Dover AFB, I was able to refer a member to the Military One Source web site. This member was thankful to get assistance in private at their own pace outside of work. So what is my point? The next time you are sitting in mandatory training, have an open mind that the training might be used for those you supervise or even those outside of work. Just as I get phone calls from others in my community, someone will call asking for advice, whether it is for themselves or someone they know. I encouraged 110 cadets, the future leaders of the Air Force, to think of not just their squad mates but of all their classmates and future troops.
For the members that find themselves "stuck" in mandatory training, I'd say put down that tall glass of "Hatorade" and think of someone besides yourself. Be prepared to help others.