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Helping agencies move to problem prevention strategy

Helping agencies move to problem prevention strategy

Yvonne Viel, Violence Prevention Integrator, engages in a discussion with Eglin Air Force Base’s Helping Agency Team members, at the new prevention strategy training Jan. 16. The new initiative is designed to help base helping agencies prevent problems before they arise. (U.S. Air Force photo/Kevin Gaddie)

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- A new Air Force initiative designed for base helping agencies to take a new approach to base issues was implemented here Jan. 16-17.


The “Shift Happens: Shifting Paradigms from Response to Prevention” training course is in place to change the mindset from reacting to issues, to addressing them proactively.  Air Force Materiel Command is the pilot command for the program.    

“Our people are the cornerstone of our success,” Brig. Gen. Evan Dertien, 96th Test Wing commander, said in opening remarks.  “In the past couple of years, I’ve seen a shift from response to prevention in dealing with issues.  We’re focused on getting better in that area.  Each one of us has a role in prevention and we should take this mindset to heart.”

The first day of training focused on proactive prevention of behaviors such as domestic abuse, alcohol and drug abuse, sexual assault and obesity.

The second day involved planning prevention skill-building events and strategic planning for training events, programs and campaigns.

“In the past, we developed training events and awareness campaigns to respond to issues,” said Yvonne Viel, Violence Prevention Integrator.  “This training changes that focus to prevention of issues through five paradigm shifts.”

They are:

  • Increase solution-based behaviors by building new skills
  • Numbers matter – the issues are too important to reach one person at a time, the military needs a culture change toward positive behaviors
  • Proactively building training, events and campaigns to prevent issues and build skills
  • Be the ally/change agent/bystander intervener and make positive change the norm
  • Build training and events so people are motivated to attend and apply new skills and behaviors

Going forward, base helping agencies will include the five paradigm shifts in all planning efforts.

Teresa Ray, Community Services Coordinator, said the goal is to eventually train the entire Air Force on prevention.

“Everyone is aware the negative issues exist,” Ray said. “We want to encourage people to start thinking about preventing them from becoming problems to deal with.”    

Ray said one high point of the training was the establishment of a mission statement: ‘Engage, educate and empower the Eglin community towards holistic health and well-being through positive change.’

Another was how to apply prevention in a helping agency’s area of expertise, she said.

“The strategic planning part of the training was important because it helped our team reframe their mindset from the approach of ‘these issues are never going away,’ to how can we prevent these issues,” Ray said.  “We don’t want to wait for someone to get a DUI, to respond.  We want to prevent that DUI from happening.”

Ray said some of these issues are so complex and intertwined that new ways of addressing them were necessary.

In one example, understanding the value of responsible drinking would create a ripple-effect of prevention to issues like DUIs, domestic abuse and sexual assault, Ray said.

Mark Wilke, 96th Force Support Squadron Child and Youth Services Flight chief, said he welcomes the prevention shift.

“If we shift some resources and focus to prevention, we will likely see fewer problems and need less resources for response,” he said.  “Maybe a simpler way to look at it is - we can pay a little bit now by preventing problems, or pay a lot more later by responding to them.” 

Base leaders are especially important to the new program’s success, according to Ray.

“Without backing from leadership, this will not work,” she said.  “Leadership has to make the time for prevention skills training and offer prevention messages on a regular basis.  This has to come from the top down.”

Ray added that like other culture changes the military has experienced, the shift from response to prevention will take time.  However, she is optimistic it will happen.

“My hope is through this culture change, people will become happier, more resilient and have a healthier sense of mental and physical well-being, both in the workplace and at home,” Ray said.