A Second "Call to Arms"

  • Published
  • By Col. Michael Panarisi
If you're ever going to sink your teeth into one of my messages, please make it this one.

What I'm about to share with you, and ask of you, is serious.

Across the USAF, our teammates are suffering. We don't fully understand why, but the outcomes are real.

We are losing members at an unprecedented rate, both military and DoD civilian. While we've tried to reverse the trend throughout the year, we aren't succeeding, so we're enlisting the entire government workforce to help figure this out.

We haven't set the exact date, but in the next couple weeks, we will "Stand Down" and collectively pursue answers.

Coincidentally, summer is upon us, and we know that statistically, we're facing additional losses, and our mission is to find ways to prevent any and all we can.

Across the USAF, suicide rates are at all time highs, as are accidental deaths from reckless behavior. I have the unfortunate task of reviewing the daily "Significant Events" memo, and it blows my mind.

Just about every day now I read about the loss of another teammate. Motorcycle accident. Auto accident. Boating accident. Gunshot wound.

And about once a week, a suicide. I've never seen anything like it in 25-plus years. We've got to find answers.

We are so blessed here. Our work force, though stressed, remains amazingly motivated, determined and devoted to both our mission and each other.

I see proud people, beaming at what they've accomplished, and eager to show what they can do. I see frustration too, and even occasional "disenfranchisement."

But I also see deliberate, focused efforts to correct environments that lead to these perceptions. We're not perfect, but frankly, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

I've always been exceedingly proud of what I have bragged about as a "brilliant work force."

Innovators, dreamers, "can-do-ers" and those that just plain old know how to get things done.

If anyone in the country can figure this out, it's us. So we're going to spend a day doing just that.

General Hoffman has asked us to answer some hard questions: How do we prevent high-risk behavior while operating motor vehicles? How do we identify, reach out and intervene to prevent suicide? How can we be better Wingmen?

I'll add to the list ... What are we doing here that we can offer the rest of the USAF? What can we predict, and defend against this upcoming "101 critical days of summer?"

The day's activities will be a mix of group and unit activities.

We're counting on the small, discrete discussions to generate the real value.

Be honest, be frank and do not leave the discussion thinking "I should have mentioned ..."

And in the end, if you just don't think your voice was heard, get to me.

We're on a mission to change a culture. We won't see results overnight.

But we will find a way. I know we can.