Team Blaze focuses on connecting during Tactical Pause

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Beaux Hebert
  • 14th Flying Training Wing

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. – The 14th Flying Training Wing participated in an Air Force chief of staff-directed Tactical Pause Aug. 22 at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, in an effort to address the rising number of suicides in the Air Force.

CSAF Gen. David L. Goldfein directed all Air Force units to take a day to address the rising number of suicides in an effort “to become more engaged, more connected and open to breaking the barriers and stigmas attached to help-seeking,” according to the Air Force Resilience webpage.

Columbus AFB Airmen started the day with a wing photo, depicting a “Z” for Team BLAZE.

“This picture shows you what you’re a part of,” said Col. Samantha Weeks, 14th Flying Training Wing commander. “This picture and the Blaze moniker that we walk around with, of a team of excellence that everyone together makes up something greater than they are individually.”

Weeks wanted those in attendance to see the blend of Airmen in the photo wearing OCPs, ABUs, and flight suits next to civilian clothes.

“Every one of you make up what this wing is and what this Air Force is a visual depiction of,” Weeks continued. “Who we are together, that no one is alone out there.”

Weeks started her all call off by going more in depth about the purpose of the Tactical Pause. She talked about how she hopes Airmen are able to connect and get to a point where they feel safe to go to helping agencies when needed, a critical part to help combat the alarming number of suicides in the Air Force.

“We are going to try to be real and vulnerable with each other so we can connect,” Weeks said. “This is not a one-day thing and that is the biggest thing the CSAF and the chief master sergeant of the Air Force talked about. If we think we are going to fix something in one day, then we failed from the start.”

Following a personal story from Weeks and how she overcame certain obstacles, she introduced Capt. Cole, 49th Fighter Training Squadron Introductory to Fighter Fundamentals instructor pilot, who also shared a personal story.

Cole took the stage to share his story about an incident that occurred a couple of months prior which really shook him emotionally.

Cole said he started his Air Force career as an F-15E Strike Eagle pilot. He said from the start he was always busy, completing over 1,000 flight hours in two years and eight months.

“I was no stranger to going out and doing bad things to bad people,” Cole said. “I enjoyed being the tip of the spear and dispatching America’s enemies.”

He admitted that none of his combat experience really affected him, and didn’t think there was anything that could stray him mentally. However, when Cole and his wife arrived on scene to a multiple vehicle accident a few months ago, the memories of death, smells and sounds altered his mind and set him into a panic.

“I had never dealt with these feelings, I was King Kong and nothing would ever harm me,” Cole said. “My mental fortitude was supposed to be strong enough that nothing could affect me.”

Cole said he felt hopeless and didn’t know what to do, which was hard for him as a fighter pilot. He was supposed know what to do all the time.

He said his wife was crucial in his journey because she urged him to seek out help. From there he sought the help of his supervisor who shared stories of resiliency and showed compassion. Cole also received medical help and sought advice from a chaplain.

 “I promise you, everybody has a breaking point,” Cole said. “Everybody struggles, either you’re going to find that breaking point or it’s going to find you. Someone in this room might be near that point and it’s our job to look out for them.”

Following the commander’s calls, units had the rest of the day to participate in resiliency activities in small-group sessions. The purpose of the small groups was for Airmen to connect personally and get to know each other better. Most units achieved their resiliency training through barbeques and games while others split up into groups and had discussions.