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Freedom Wing Airmen become first Reservists to join Warrior Connect program

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Monica Ricci
  • 514th Air Mobility Wing

A group of Airmen assigned to the 514th Air Mobility Wing became the first in the Air Force Reserve Command to become certified in the Warrior Connect program – a program started here at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in 2023.

Warrior Connect seeks to enhance the visibility of individuals who can facilitate connections with vital support services while combatting the stigma of seeking assistance. Airmen designated with the distinctive blue and yellow Warrior Connect tab are specially trained in resilience and prevention and are able to link their peers with relevant helping agencies.

“I am so proud of the men and women of The Freedom Wing and how we lead the way on so many different fronts,” said Chief Master Sgt. Leonard Werner, command chief of the 514 AMW. “I’m hopeful that seeing some of us wear the tab will spark a conversation and encourage more Airmen to get trained to be a resource for the wing and an advocate for the program.”

To qualify to wear the Warrior Connect badge, Airmen must undergo suicide alertness and intervention skills training. Additionally, they must secure endorsement from their leadership, and complete a comprehensive one-day Warrior Connect program.

Chief Werner earned his Warrior Connect badge in May. He said it was important for him to be a part of the peer-to-peer program because there was a time in his civilian career when he wishes he could have done more.

“As a police supervisor, I unfortunately had to go through one of the hardest times of my career when an officer took her own life. What could I have done better? Did I miss the cry for help? Could I have said something different? Why didn’t she feel comfortable reaching out to me before that fateful night?” Chief reflected. “I continue to ask myself these questions almost six years later.”

Werner said attending the classes required to earn the Warrior Connect tab are not only crucial to our Airmanship, but also to being a good human.

“Suicide continues to be a major concern across the DOD, so any education or resources that can  help us have difficult but necessary conversations could save a life.’

Master Sgt. Crystal Malsom, first sergeant for the 514th AMW, has been wearing the Warrior Connect badge for a month and said its impact is going to be invaluable.

“When an Airman sees this tab, it can provide a sense of security. It identifies the wearer as someone who is trained and ready to connect with the Airman about their concerns or help get them the right resources or supports.”

The shirt also said the inclusion of our Reservists in the Warrior Connect program underscores the importance of the Total Force and reinforces the idea of “one team-one fight.”

Airmen from all over the base have already taken notice of the brightly colored Warrior Connect badge on Malsom’s sleeve.

"I have been asked what the tab means, which shows me we need to get more information about the program out to our Airmen," she said. "This program is amazing, and we need to continue to make it grow. I truly believe one person can make a difference."

Chief Werner echoes that statement and said he hopes that as awareness of the program grows, it will promote more genuine face-to-face conversations.

“The professional relationships we can build by just having a conversation, getting involved in base and community events, and most importantly caring about each other, can make all the difference in the world,” He said. “If a simple conversation can help to build trust, compassion, and empathy to strengthen our profession of arms, and we can just help one person, I would call that a success!”

JB MDL is also home to Sean’s Room, another peer-to-peer resource for service members to address and strengthen their mental well-being. It is a safe and informal environment where JB MDL personnel can receive mental health support and maintain confidentiality as required by law. 

Sean’s Room is located in the passenger terminal and is open from 0700 to 2300 daily.