A Preventative Approach to PTSD

The 361st Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Group at Hurlburt Field, Fla., has created a new program to help its aircrews cope with PTSD. While direct support operators and tactical systems operators might not be on the ground, they fly with members of Air Force Special Operations Command and US Special Operations Command and observe potential targets for days before watching the results of strikes in high-definition, according to a 25th Air Force release. “Our airmen are on the front lines of the fight against ISIS, literally,” said Col. Matthew Atkins, commander commander of the 361st ISR Group, in the release. “We undergo some very unique stressors that combine the aspects of special operations and intelligence.” Atkins noted one 361st airmen is only 22 years old, but has already racked up over 1,200 combat hours. “That is a lot of stress on a young person,” he said. The airmen can suffer from fear-based and moral-injury PTSD. Atkins created the Re-Fit program to use preventative and rehabilitative measures to protect his airmen. The treatments will augment care already received through mental health counseling, Preservation of the Force and Family Program therapy, and chaplain-provided guidance. The program, based on a holistic approach, will focus on prevention by building mental toughness, optimizing human performance, increasing introspective awareness, and decreasing stigma. Participants will then take part in regular self-maintenance. “We are convinced that a rigorous and well-tailored Re-Fit program will assist us in preventing more trauma and will get more airmen back into the fight,” Atkins said.