Patching bases together with suicide prevention

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Abbey Rieves and Senior Airman Ethan Sherwood
  • 17th Training Wing Public Affairs

Suicide prevention has been and continues to be a strong area of focus for leaders across the Air Force and the other service branches.

It is an issue that likely has impacted nearly every career field in the military, including fire emergency services. 

The 312th Training Squadron runs the Louis F. Garland Department of Defense Fire Academy, which is the starting point for training all military firefighters.

Members of the 312th TRS rallied together to raise suicide awareness. 

Each year, the schoolhouse designs t-shirts to heighten visibility of this important topic. When someone orders one of their shirts online, that shirt is also provided to a fire academy graduate for free. It’s a symbolic gesture that demonstrates their support for the active-duty firefighting community.  

This year, Tech. Sgt. Phillip Crews, 312th TRS instructor, collaborated to make the t-shirt design into a morale patch.

With unified support from the DoD Fire Academy, the 17th Training Wing, and the Air Force civil engineer community, this year’s prevention design expanded from a small career field morale patch to something much more. 

During the 2022 Air, Space and Cyber Conference at National Harbor, Md., members of the 312th TRS shared the patch with top Air and Space Forces leaders, who enthusiastically endorsed its design and message, but also approved its wear on occupational camouflage uniforms.

“With the backing from our career field manager, we got it pushed to the entire firefighting career field,” said Crews. “From there, it kept expanding, and now it’s being worn at bases across the world.”

The patch has been approved for wear with OCP military uniforms by leaders at 63 Air Force installations and counting.  Many top leaders at the Air, Space and Cyber Conference wore the patch to show their support and help raise awareness about suicide. 

The goal behind the patch is to start conversations around suicide and identify those that wear the patch as someone their wingmen can turn to in a time of crisis.

“It initiates conversation and brings awareness to the issue,” said Crews. “Not a lot of people know what the semicolon means, and it sparks conversation.”

The patch reads: “SUICIDE AWARENESS. NO ONE FIGHTS ALONE.” A heartbeat is displayed on one side, signifying the top priority of firefighters, life. On the other side, a semicolon, which represents the continuation of someone’s story. 

At the center of it all, is the Maltese Cross, a symbol of protection, which carries a dual meaning, as it also represents the four pillars of resiliency:  mental, physical, social, and spiritual. When balanced, these pillars can help strengthen all parts of an Airmen’s life.

Members of the 17th TRW provided suicide prevention patches to members of the base community, while also capitalizing on the opportunity to express their appreciation for their role in supporting the wing’s training mission. 

“Suicide prevention and awareness, at its core, is an issue that needs a personal connection to make progress,” said Lt. Col. Samuel Logan, 312th TRS commander. “I wanted to take the box of patches and physically place them on the sleeves of our ‘Wolfpack’ in their work centers among their peers to demonstrate that I personally care.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing severe distress, there are numerous support resources available.  They include: the chaplain, mental health clinic providers, and military and family life counselors.

Call or text 988 to connect with the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.