Spring into Wellness

  • Published
  • By SrA Alexis Orozco
  • 944th Fighter Wing

The 944th Fighter Wing held its first ever “Spring into Wellness” Information Fair at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, May 15, 2022, in correlation with Mental Health Awareness Month.

The Spring into Wellness Information Fair brought 15 local and national organizations to one location to offer resources to Reserve Citizen Airmen on Luke Air Force Base, Arizona.

“Comprehensive Airmen Fitness is a big thing in the Air Force, it’s about the whole being, the spiritual, mental, social, and physical,” Jessica Maldonado, Airmen and Family Readiness Center director. “To have a healthy Airmen you need to have all those pieces, so for mental health we had a lot of different resources come out so the Airmen can see the variety of different resources available. We are trying to break down the stigma of being scared to seek help from mental health or look outside the box when it comes to finding support.”

Some of the organizations that were part of the information fair included Military One Source, the Luke Air Force Base Counselor, Bounder Crest, The Joint, Horses Help with Tender Little Hearts Mini Tails, The West Valley Vet Center, Base Recovery Care Coordinator (to include Wounded Warrior), Civilian Employee Assistance program, Siege MMA, Celestial Float Therapy, U.S. Air Force Reserve Component Transition Assistance Advisor, Soldier’s Best Friend, Community Support Coordinator for active duty (representing the Master Resilience Training Squadron), and Yellow Ribbon.

Jonathan Bailey, Soldier’s Best Friend program manager, explained he has seen first-hand the way their organization helps veterans with conditions resulting from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

“We provide a dog to a veteran who doesn’t have their own,” said Bailey. “We help the veteran train thein their dog for service dog work to help combat related PTSD or TBI thus helping them adjust back into civilian life easier and more confidently.”

The trained service dogs know basic obedience for public outings and tasks specific to each veteran’s PTSD or TBI symptoms. Throughout the process service dogs live and build bonds with the veteran and learn to quickly respond to veteran specific triggering situations.

Also, at the event was Tutti Hendricks, Horses Help mental health director of and Terry Holmes-Stecyk, Tender Little Hearts Mini Tails founder. They brought a miniature horse named Maserati, nicknamed “Mazy”, for Airmen to meet. Mazy stayed busy as no expected to see a mini horse in the middle of their Unit Training Assembly. What she offered was a calming presence for Airmen at the event and demonstrated that equine therapy can be a source of peace.

“We provide adaptive writing, hypnotherapy, mental health services, and education and all kinds of stuff,” Hendricks said. “We do work with the Wounded Warrior Program, and we work with Path International, a Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PAT). We partnered with PAT to give Wounded Warriors a chance to come to us and ride, and work with horses.”

During the event the Airmen, while dining on free pastries and coffee from local vendors, sought information from all of the organizations about mental health awareness, therapy, strategies to implement self-care to help themselves and other wingmen.

“I think it’s hard, it’s difficult sometimes for people to ask for help. So when things like this happen, it forces people to go and get out of their comfort zone to get the help that they possibly need,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Analisa Wright, 944th Operations Group.

This information fair was all encompassing – it brought awareness, resources, and discussion around the topic of mental health for Reserve Citizen Airmen of the 944th FW.

“Through doing events like this, we are hopefully breaking down the stigma, those barriers, and really empowering those Airmen to take control and really better themselves, reach out, get help,” Maldonado said. “Mental Health support may be different from Johnny to Susie to Sam, and that’s okay, it’s a good thing. We just want them to know that there is help out there no matter what intrigues them.”

One of the wing’s objectives is to “Take Care of Airmen” so they are constantly encouraging Airmen to seek help and take care of themselves and this event a piece of that goal.

“What I always tell our Airmen is Airmen and Family Readiness don’t solve problems; we don’t fix everything, but we try to give you hope for the next day,” Maldonado said.