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Fit to serve: 116th Psychological Health Program helps Guard, families’ mental health, wellness for ops readiness

Mental Health

Operational readiness goes beyond the physical. Service members must be mentally and emotionally fit for the mission as well. (courtesy graphic)

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --

Operational readiness goes beyond the physical.

Service members must be mentally and emotionally fit for the mission as well.

The Psychological Health Program is one resource the 116th Air Control Wing has in its arsenal of help for Guard members and their families.

Dr. William White, a licensed clinical social worker and the director of Psychological Health in the 116th ACW, who oversees the wing’s Psychological Health Program, said the program advocates and supports Air National Guard Airmen and their families by promoting mental fitness and personal wellness for operational readiness.

“The Psychological Health Program promotes focused activities facilitating the prevention of mental health issues, early intervention, crisis response and post-incident recovery,” he said. 

White said Guard members face challenges in their mission that are slightly different from those active-duty Airmen face.

“Air National Guard members respond to the governor of Georgia for state emergencies or the call of the president in times of crisis,” he said. “The mission of the Psychological Health Program is to advocate, promote, and guide National Guard members and their families by supporting psychological fitness for operational readiness.”

In some ways, however, Guard members face circumstances similar to everyone else.

“Change and uncertainty can increase stress and anxiety,” White said. “The continued challenges of this pandemic can leave us feeling powerless and more stressed. However, these feelings are normal, and our service members, for the most part, practice good self-care and typically bounce back quickly.”

White, who has been in his current role with the wing nearly four years, said the Psychological Health Program supports the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System mission by offering help to address a full range of personal, emotional and behavioral problems service members may experience while serving.

“The National Guard Bureau recognizes the unique pressures that service members and their families’ experience, especially given the need for service members to function at their highest level physically and emotionally,” he said. “For this reason, the National Guard strives to be relevant, ready and accessible to members of the 116th Air Control Wing’s JSTARS mission.”

Air National Guard Psychological Health Program directors of Psychological Health are placed in each of the 90 Air National Guard wings, covering 54 states, territories, and the District of Columbia.

“The director of Psychological Health serves as the wing’s principle consultant and advocate for psychological health,” White said.

The 116th Psychological Health Program is authorized to be used by ANG service members and their family members.

However; White said in an emergency situation, no client will be turned away for clinical triage and referral services.

“In a non-emergency situation, an active-duty member in the 461st Air Control Wing is referred to the Mental Health Clinic on the 78th Air Base Wing side of the base; and a Department of Defense civilian is referred to the Occupational Medicine Services Clinic or community mental health provider,” he said.

The 116th ACW’s Psychological Health Program office, located in the Minute Man Building at 540 East Dr., Bldg. 2094, Room 159, at Robins, is open for appointments from 7 a.m. – 4 p.m., Monday – Friday, and on Saturday and Sunday during Unit Training Assembly, otherwise known as drill weekends, from 7 a.m. – 4 p.m.

“Service members can make an appointment with me during regular business hours,” White said. “The services of the Psychological Health Program are confidential and free of charge for Air National Guard members and their dependents.”

Guard members can call or email to schedule an appointment. 

White said at the initial appointment, service members will be asked to provide basic demographic information, military history and details regarding the concern for which they are seeking assistance.

The DoD offers its service members many resources for mental health.

When White visits units, he encourages military members to take advantage of the mental health resources available to them.

“To me, asking for help is a sign of strength and courage,” White said.