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New 97 AMW VPI targets Airman wellness, resiliency

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kayla Christenson
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

The 97th Air Mobility Wing recently welcomed a new violence prevention integrator, Susan Bradford, to help lead Airmen and their families towards a better quality of life at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma.

A VPI helps reduce the occurrence of interpersonal violence through education, intervention techniques, program development and sustainability of violence prevention strategies. This happens through cooperation from the base populous as well as public and private organizations throughout the local community.

“Our job really starts way down here at the floor, where the little problems start,” said Bradford. “If we can address them and intervene, we can prevent these issues from getting bigger. That's where we see a crisis ahead and then potential loss of life.”

According to a research study by Brown University, 30,177 veterans have died from suicide compared to the 7,057 veterans killed in post-9/11 combat.

“Prevention is more than just stopping loss of life,” said Bradford. “We need happy Airmen. Airmen have the right to be happy and they should be happy. By having happier Airmen, that means they are more productive and able to contribute to our military communities. Part of that is building the wellness program which I have teamed up with Chris Hargis to make possible.”

Bradford and Hargis, the 97th AMW community support coordinator, are part of the wellness advocacy team - volunteers trained to improve the quality of response to Airmen under stress before a crisis. The 40-hour training covers topics ranging from suicide, first aid, resiliency and de-escalation.

“The VPI has a variety of tools she has to equip people to help others during difficult times,” said Lt. Col. Peter McClellan, 97th AMW director of staff. “She is a great resource for ideas to help people connect with each other, which has proven effective in preventing and de-escalating stress and distress.”

Bradford also wants to focus on the AAFB civilian population because most are veterans who could be at higher risk. According to the 2021 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, veterans account for more than 10 percent of all suicides in the United States.

“Civilian Airmen are just as important as our active duty Airmen on the base,” said Bradford. “The civilian force is very large here and some of them are retirees and veterans who are also struggling. Providing support and offering more services are small ways we can make huge improvements to their quality of life.”

Bradford said every Airmen on the installation matters and she wants to make sure every single person is considered when making decisions.

“I really feel like the Altus community is my priority,” she said. “It's making sure that everyone is getting the services they need and tailoring to those needs when necessary to make sure they're included, not left out and not alone.”

Airmen, civilians and families in need of these services can reach the VPI office at 580-481-7951.

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