DVIDS – News – Doctors help condition candidates for Special Warfare

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JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas – The Human Performance Squadron on Joint Base San Antonio-Median Annex, Texas, has been around for just over three years, but the impact it has had on getting trainees through the technical school was invaluable. The squadron is part of the Special Warfare Training Wing, which is responsible for training over 1,700 Special Warfare trainees per year.
“Before this squadron, the majority of students bathed because of health issues,” Tech explains. Sgt. Joshua Smith, physical medicine technician at Human Performance Squadron.
Physical injuries and mental health issues have always resulted in more than half of students who have taken technical training to be dropped from the course.
“We were losing 50 to 85 percent of our guys in each grade,” says Smith. “The Air Force is incredibly selective with who enters these career fields, so when most of the people who still don’t qualify, leaders had to ask what the real problem was.”
Prior to the Human Performance Squadron, if a student was injured and could not participate in training for a combined period of more than two weeks, the student was forced to change careers or separate from the Air Force.
“I know all too well what it is,” Tech says. Sgt. Steven Coon, Human Performance Squadron Diet Technician. “I was one of those guys seven years ago. I was going to be on a paras rescue. I got injured a few months later and had to retrain.
Today, injured students have access to world-class recovery facilities and can use them to get back into shape.
Coon was able to find his way back to the Special Warfare Training Wing and is now helping students avoid the situation he found himself in early in his Air Force career.
“We live in an age where bad information is everywhere. Some of these candidates think they know about nutrition, but the knowledge they do have is wrong. I have to convince them that what I tell them is supported by research, ”says Coon. “The Air Force spends a lot of money training them; they wouldn’t let me lead them badly.
Physical fitness and proper nutrition of the body are important elements in preparing students for technical training. Mental and emotional resilience has become equally necessary for the challenges faced by students in special warfare.
“Now that the stigma around getting mental help is fading, interns are not shy about reaching out,” Tech says. Sgt. Steven Mellon, a mental health technician with the Human Performance Squadron. “We have learned how to make it easier for them to make appointments and we are integrating mental and emotional health into their classes. “
Mellon says this is a unique assignment for a mental health technician, as he gets tougher on interns than with typical patients.
“We go out into the field with them. When we see them struggling to focus or cope with stress, we step in with them, ”says Mellon. “They must know they can get away with it [and] that everyone has a hard time succeeding in, but it’s worth it.
The training and education provided as part of the Human Performance Squadron prepares students to become better Airmen in every sense of the word.
“The time they spend with us helps interns develop the skills they need to meet the crazy expectations placed on them,” says Smith.
The focus on holistic health reduced washes by 80% in 2018, and those numbers are expected to be even better for 2019. The Human Performance Squadron is hoping their work with Special Warfare candidates can be used to help. airmen to become healthier and more resilient in the face of the challenges facing military personnel around the world.


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