JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas --
Voice is more than simply speaking; it engages the entire self – the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual selves. The act of giving a personal story voice however, can be an extremely disarming or even feared act.
The Air Force Wounded Warrior (AFW2) Program Ambassador Workshop provides wounded, ill or injured service members with a unique opportunity not only to learn to communicate and share personal stories of incredible perseverance, but on a more basic level, the ability to reclaim power over their voice in the face of tremendous hardship.
“We bring in public speaking experts and allow our warriors to work one-on-one with them during these CARE events to help develop their stories, and later give them an opportunity to engage military and local audiences which helps in their healing as well as educating key demographics on services AFW2 provides,” said Brad Britt, AFW2 Ambassador Workshop program manager. “These ambassadors are those who have had their lives directly impacted by AFW2, and who in this role are able to spread their stories of resiliency and recovery, while potentially bringing awareness to more people who could benefit from our mission.”
More than 8,400 wounded warriors, family members and caregivers are currently supported by the AFW2 program; a number which continues to grow as more warriors are identified daily. The AFW2 program is functionally aligned under the Air Force Warrior Care Division, and is operationally managed by the Air Force’s Personnel Center, here.
“Potential ambassadors are either self-identified or nominated via recommendations from other program leads and managers,” said Britt. “All are vetted by leadership, who align goals of the warrior with community and service impact – the most important consideration here is the overall benefit to the recovery of the warrior.”
Because of the personal and emotional toll this level of public speaking can take a recovering warrior, careful thought is given to each hopeful ambassador before final decisions are made.
“Being involved with this program has not only allowed me to heal, but has given me the opportunity to help others get the care they need; there is a healing power behind being able to share your stories with other warriors in this program, and then further share that with fellow service members,” said Chief Master Sgt. Neil Jones, Air Force Civil Engineer Center at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, and current AFW2 ambassador. “So, while the ambassador aspect does involve getting out there and engaging with audiences to educate (about the program), it is also cathartic to the warrior throughout the entire learning process.”
Both Britt and Jones acknowledge that public speaking is not something many are fond of, nor something that most consider a strong suit.
“Add the fact that not only are we asking these warriors to public speak, but also share something that may have been extremely traumatic to them – military sexual trauma, instances that have led to PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), witnessing death or near-death experiences – it shows the level of courage it takes to step up and do this and strength to see it through,” Britt said.
Another significant aspect surrounding the ambassador program Britt touched on was the team concept.
“When our ambassadors are going through these classroom style workshops, a rare bond is formed that impacts the manner in which they are able to articulate their stories; we understand that can often be difficult to replicate beyond that class environment,” he said. “Taking that into account however, we never send our warriors off on their own to engage at outreach events. We heal as a team, we deliver as a team; we attend speaking engagements with our warriors and support them to ensure they are successful – it is part of our Care Beyond Duty philosophy.”
It is this continued partnership and support that ensures warriors feel supported and continue to progress in their recovery.
For more information about the AFW2 program, visit their official website. Additionally, be sure to like their Facebook page for program updates, upcoming events and the latest news.
Editor’s note: The next CARE event (following JBLM) will be held at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, this November.