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Vance Air Force Base to host stand-down for suicide prevention

Vance Airpark (US Air Force/Released)

The 71st Flying Training Wing at Vance Air Force Base will take a break from normal operations on Aug. 29 to focus on suicide prevention.

The “Resiliency Tactical Pause” was scheduled after a mandate, issued Aug. 1 by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, for all Air Force wings to conduct a one-day stand-down for resiliency and suicide prevention.

In a video released that same day, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright said 78 airmen have died by suicide so far in 2019 — a more-than 50% increase over the same time last year. At that pace, Wright said 150 to 160 airmen could be lost to suicide this year.

“Our teammates are taking their own lives,” Wright said in the video. “We lose more airmen to suicide than any other single enemy — even more than combat. That’s 78 teammates, that’s 78 wingmen, that’s 78 spouses, that’s 78 brothers and sisters and sons and daughters. Seventy-eight, who couldn’t find a single reason to keep going.”

Goldfein gave all Air Force wings a deadline of Sept. 15 to complete a day of suicide prevention and resiliency training.

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In an Aug. 2 Facebook post on the mandated stand-down, Wright said the training “will not be a ‘one-off’ or a PowerPoint presentation.”

“We want leaders to look their Airmen in the eyes and find the right ways to lead them to every type of wellness,” Wright wrote. “This is our chance to take care of our Airmen … our family!”

A provided statement from Headquarters Air Force said the stand-down will give airmen a chance to focus on overcoming the risks of suicide.

“The Resiliency Tactical Pause is about giving our airmen time back to connect and break down barriers to getting help,” according to the statement. “This is the start of an ongoing dialogue about the force’s well-being and the collected feedback will drive changes to programs if necessary, as well as create more effective ways to empower leaders at the lowest level.”

The 71st Flying Training Wing office of public affairs said the Aug. 29 training at Vance will include small group sessions. Vance has lost one airman to suicide in the past four years, according to the base public affairs office.

Vance Command Chief Master Sergeant Frank Graziano, the senior enlisted airman at the base, said in a prepared statement the stand-down is about airmen taking care of each other, as family.

“We are a family — not only as an Air Force, but as Vance Air Force Base,” Graziano said. “Our military service members and civilian counterparts, alike, are a family and family takes care of each other. We want to foster an environment where seeking help early and often is accepted.”

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© 2019 the Enid News & Eagle