Empowering our Airmen and Families

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- "Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family." - Kofi Annan, "Where on Earth Are We Going"

I had already been a voluntary client at Family Advocacy by the time I began serving as a U.S. Air Force first sergeant in 1998. As my career progressed and life - in all its glorious complexity - happened, I also self-referred to the Mental Health clinic in 2000. Neither of these instances had any adverse effect on my career. In fact, I can honestly say that Family Advocacy enhanced my family life, while Mental Health directly improved my personal well-being and made me a better first sergeant. During my seven-year tenure as a first sergeant, I realized that Airmen (officer and enlisted) who self-referred to the various community services had much higher success rates than those whom the commander or I referred for similar services.

I later learned of the concept of readiness for change in my master of social work degree program. This is not readiness in the typical military sense; rather it indicates the client's recognition of a problem and the client's willingness to address the issue at hand. I believe each and every one of us will be more motivated to seek help if we know where to go and that the help will be confidential.

The Misawa Integrated Delivery System (IDS) created the Helping Agency Matrix to inform, educate and empower our Airmen and their families. All IDS agencies firmly believe that we - all individuals - are in the best position to solve our respective challenges in life; but the IDS agencies also realize that we sometimes may not know where to go for personalized assistance. The IDS hopes this matrix serves as a quick reference point to help you decide which agencies may best be able to assist you or your Wingman.

In general, IDS agencies provide confidential services when you voluntarily access their respective services. The majority of our agencies offer services with limited privileged communication; that is, they maintain your privacy and confidentiality in the vast majority of situations. Prime exceptions include reporting evidence of family maltreatment (unless using Domestic Abuse Victim Advocate services) and instances of suicidal or homicidal ideation; they may also be compelled to testify in court. As an example, Family Advocacy social workers will maintain your privacy if you voluntarily attend preventative classes (no notes in your medical record, either!) or seek their family strengthening services. Likewise, you can voluntarily access professional financial counseling for debt pay-off, retirement planning or simply saving for a vacation, without concern that the counselor will notify your commander or first sergeant.

The Chaplain Corps are the only service providers with privileged communication (aka absolute confidentiality); that is, they cannot and will not share your personal information with any other person or agency - they cannot even be subpoenaed for a court-martial.

Please review the Helping Agency Matrix here; share it with your Wingmen, share it with your families and then use it! Educate yourself, empower yourself... proactively use these community services to enhance your resilience across the four domains of Comprehensive Airman Fitness: mental, spiritual, physical and social.