New Mexico first sergeants improve mental health response skills

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Victor J. Caputo
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs

First sergeants from Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, joined Holloman AFB first sergeants for a Mental Health First Aid course July 14, 2022, here.

Twenty diamond-wearing and additional duty first sergeants attended the course to develop their skills to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders.

“The information we’re getting lines up with struggles we’re all dealing with,” said Master Sgt. Sterling Wynn, 49th Force Support Squadron first sergeant at Holloman. “We might see it in different forms but it all ties back to what we’re learning today. It’s going to help us because we essentially do this every day.”

Many first sergeants attend the annual First Sergeant World Wide Conference, but this smaller gathering of the diamonds was designed to strengthen the bond and skills of shirts here in the Southwest.

“We’re trying to do something a little bit different outside of the worldwide just to show ‘hey, we’re all on the same team,’” said Senior Master Sgt. Robert Spence, 377th Weapons Security Systems Squadron first sergeant at Kirtland AFB. “First sergeants are always trying to learn from each other and make each other better.”

The course, which is funded at Holloman by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and New Mexico State University, was geared for the first sergeants to ease the struggle of overseeing every single member of units that may have hundreds of personnel.

“People who are trained in this course are able to assess signs and struggles from afar by gleaning intel from others that associate with those affected individuals every day,” said Susan Hunter, 49th FSS work life specialist and course instructor.

All of the first sergeants, nine from Kirtland and 11 from Holloman, took advantage of the opportunity to share and learn from each other’s experiences throughout the day-long course.

“This is what it’s about right here, the times you can network with other counsels, other bases, because we’re all dealing with the same stuff just in different forms,” said Wynn. “We appreciate Kirtland coming out in fellowship with us in our home so we can make our Airmen and bases better.”

In communion with their Holloman brothers and sisters, the Kirtland first sergeants echoed the sentiment and how important this kind of connection can be.

“We just want to make each other better for our Airmen,” said Spence. “That’s ultimately the whole goal of this: to network, to understand each other, to understand our troubles and what our successes are so that we can bring them back to our counsels and bases and try to make them better.”