AFMC Command News

Virtual Spouse and Family Forum focuses on resiliency, mental health

  • Published
  • By Michele Donaldson
  • Air Force Materiel Command

Mental health and how to access support and resiliency resources was the focus of the Air Force Materiel Command virtual Spouse and Family Forum, Nov. 9. The forum featured panelists from across the Department of the Air Force to help individuals understand and navigate the diverse resources available for support.

Following a brief welcome by Lorna Estep, AFMC Executive Director, moderator Annamae Willis introduced the panel members including Col. Kim Bowen, 88th Air Base Wing Chaplain; Lt. Col. Tracy Markle, AFMC Behavioral Health Branch Chief; Kelly Smith, Associate Director, Military and Community Support Programs; Jenna Moore, Subject Matter Expert for the Military and Family Life Counseling Program; Danna Plewe, Air Force Employee Assistance Program Manager; and Chief Master Sgt. Joseph Joslin, AFMC Command First Sergeant.

Representing military family life counselors and Military OneSource, Smith provided information on the confidential non-medical counseling services available to military members and their families. OneSource provides in-person counseling though private practice locations in the local community and via video chat or telephone. Military Life and Family Life Counseling offers similar care and additionally offers child and youth behavioral counseling at over 300 military installations. This can include face-to-face counseling as well as visitations and discussion via online resources or telephone.

“We currently have more than 2,500 licensed counselors who can offer advice on handing relationship issues, grief and loss, stress management, deployment challenges and many other topics,” said Smith, “All services are available free of charge to military members and anyone in their household.”

Smith and her staff work in tandem with Danna Plewe who manages the Civilian Employee Assistance Program for the civilian workforce.

“As the civilian counterpart, we offer non-clinical, short-term mental health services to civilian households,” said Plewe, “Something we are really proud of is that any individual who lives in that household is eligible to use our services at no cost.”

All programs also assess situations in order to elevate cases when a different level of care is needed.

As a representative of the chaplain office, Bowen addressed some misnomers concerning the chaplain program. While chaplains are ordained ministers in their specific religious governing bodies, the program also encompasses spirituality, which he defined as an ultimate meaning and purpose for life. 

“We use a comprehensive fitness model that encompasses four domains: physical, mental, social, and spiritual,” said Bowen. “We are all spiritual beings, and we help Airmen and their families with issues pertaining to virtues and values, and the pursuit of a fulfilling life even in difficult times.”

Working through challenging periods in individuals’ lives is also a function of the First Sergeant. Joslin emphasized that the program is not only for disciplinary actions. They are also there to help and guide members on the many helping resources available.

“I also wanted to put in a plug for the Military Family Life Counselors in local schools,” said Joslin, “My kids, like all military kids, move a lot, and it’s nice to have someone in the school that understands what they are going though.”

Markle provided an overview of the base mental health clinics. Although their services are mostly available to military members, they also offer helpful seminars in family advocacy and parental skill-building. She suggested that individuals visit installation home pages or call the hospital appointment line to learn about available services.

The session ended with a question-and-answer session, and the panelists provided links and contact information for further details.

The AFMC Family Connection initiative is working to link uniformed and civilian family members across the command with support and resources in all aspects of life. The program continues into 2024, with new events announced soon.

The video of the event is available here: