HPO, DTC: partnering for resiliency

A photo of individuals from the 48th RQS discussing their Airmen.

Rina Abrams-Dunn, 48th Rescue Squadron clinical social worker, coordinates with U.S. Air Force Capt. Gerald Stout, Deployment Transition Center and 38th Rescue Squadron chaplain and Lt. Col. Joone Choi, 48th RQS flight doctor at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Oct. 8, 2019,. The 48th RQS Human Performance Optimization Program team works alongside the DTC staff to provide their Airmen with continuity of care. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christina Rios)

A photo of a man overlooking a wall.

Courtesy Photo

A photo of people walking along a bridge.

Courtesy Photo

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany --

The transition from a deployed environment to home station can be a shock to many. The Human Performance Optimization program at the 48th Rescue Squadron, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, is working towards getting ahead of potential stressors that Airmen of the 48th RQS may experience as a result of the re-deployment process.

The HPO team is accomplishing this by utilizing the resources provided by the U.S. Air Force Deployment Transition Center at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

The center is a Headquarters Air Force Readiness Program that offers a two-day curriculum comprised of 10 hours of program and 62 hours of down-time. The mission is to provide critical reintegration skills as well as opportunities for re-deployed service members to decompress. The DTC supports approximately 3,000 re-deployers annually and 13,500 in total since opening in 2010.

“While the Air Force did a Resiliency Tactical Pause, this is one of those mechanisms that feeds into the greater needs of the Air Force for resiliency,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Pearce, 48th RQS commander. “When you look at resiliency from a holistic approach, the DTC is a key component and, specific to Guardian Angel, the HPO is a further key component that we add into our forces… Then, as we ask our Airmen to go out and meet the mission, we can still do that while concurrently mitigating long-term risk to force.”  

The 48th RQS has been utilizing the transition assistance offered by the DTC for approximately 15 months. Within that time-frame, five iterations of 48th RQS re-deployers have passed through the DTC.

“The purpose of the DTC is an opportunity to pause, relax, decompress and then, in conversation, we bring out stuff to help them reflect,” said Capt. Gerald Stout, 38th Rescue Squadron Chaplain who is currently deployed to support the DTC. “The questions and the challenges that we’re putting in front of them here benefit the operators, because they have the support staff back home that is also asking these tough questions on a weekly basis.”

In addition to the resources provided by the DTC, the HPO Program from the 48th RQS offers support to their Airmen by joining them during their time there. The unit sends a mental health specialist, physical therapist and flight doctor from the HPO Team to meet the re-deployers upon arrival in Germany.

Having health-care professionals from their home unit allows continuity of care and it also gives Airmen the opportunity to receive necessary medical attention before they return home.

“As they transition, they’ll go back home to regular lives, to their spouses, their families, their children, their mothers, their fathers, and that’s where you get a complete change from what they knew when they were deployed to then, ‘Now I’m home,’” said Pearce. “That’s where there could be long-term impact. So if we could get in front and lean as far forward with continuity of care and support, it allows us to get into the areas where it could have the highest impact.”

The 48th RQS is taking the initiative to care for and invest in their Airmen, their most valuable asset, by taking a holistic approach towards increasing resiliency.