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Team is in a Sprint to Combat Barriers to Mental Health, Wellness, Resilience

  • Published
  • By Bo Joyner

A new cross-functional team tasked with initiating a sprint to combat barriers to mental health, wellness and resilience for all Airmen, Guardians, families and civilians has strong Air Force Reserve Command representation.

Maj. Gen. Maureen Banavige, the mobilization assistant to the Air Force Reserve Command commander, Dr. Janice Barnes, AFRC’s chief of resiliency operations, and Julie Russell, the command’s Director of Psychological Health program manager, are part of the new cross-functional team that Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. CQ Brown, Jr. established in June to energize the work being done by the Fortify the Force Initiative Team.

The FFIT, championed by the chief master sergeants of the Air Force and Space Force, was established in October 2021 to build a stronger Department of the Air Force culture by promoting holistic wellness and addressing barriers to resilience so that all Airmen, Guardians and family members can thrive.

Over the past two years, the FFIT has received more than 300 submissions from people throughout the Air Force and Space Force. Brown charged the new cross-functional team with quickly prioritizing and staffing these submissions for decision and implementation. He directed the team to initiate a sprint to be completed no later than Oct. 1 so that all initiatives can be brought to a point of action ahead of the fall CORONA gathering of Air Force senior leaders.

“My challenge to the team is to overcome bureaucracy, connect stakeholders and perspectives to develop informed decisions, and to accelerate change in ways that are meaningful to our force,” Brown said in a recent memo.

Banavige, who serves as the senior Reserve Component mentor for the FFIT, said she is excited to be part of the new cross-functional team.

“There are a lot of great submissions that we will be looking at,” she said. “As the RC mentor for the FFIT, I want to make sure that the concerns of all members of the Air Force team, including Reservists and Guardsmen, are addressed.”

The cross-functional team will be evaluating a wide range of subjects, including ease of access to mental health care, peer support programs, wellness resources, post-suicide analysis, climate risk factors and other efforts impacting the force.

“Access to quality mental health supports remains a concern as Reserve members, family members and civilians navigate care in a complex network including military sources, civilian healthcare providers, Veterans Administration and a vast network of wellness and community supports provided within the military,” Russell said.

While the cross-functional team is in a sprint to evaluate the more than 300 submissions the FFIT has already received, Banavige said Fortify the Force is always looking for more input.

“I would encourage any member of the Reserve team who has suggestions for promoting holistic wellness or overcoming barriers to resiliency to share their concerns with their command chief,” Banavige said.

Recommendations can also be made via the Fortify the Force Initiative Team here.