Building Prevention Together: The Integrated Resiliency Office

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Sarah Williams
  • 17th Training Wing

The issue of suicide within the Air Force is a significant concern. There were 17 suicides in the first quarter of 2024, compared to 16 in the same period the previous year. Airmen take annual trainings that help raise awareness and assist Airmen in combatting stressors that lead to suicide, but what if annual trainings aren’t enough?

Recently, the 17th Training Wing established the Integrated Resilience Office to strengthen and promote the resiliency and readiness of military members through enhancing initiatives that support the overall well-being of service members and their families.

Recognizing the critical importance of mental health, prevention, and overall resilience of service members to ensure operational readiness and mission success, the Department of Defense mandated the establishment of IROs across all military bases. This strategic move aims to effectively address prevention and resiliency through coordinated efforts, ultimately fortifying the capability and preparedness of military members. 

Emily Rivera Velasquez, 17th TRW IRO integrated prevention coordinator, explained how IRO is the linchpin for all the prevention programs on the base by consolidating and enhancing various initiatives, such as sexual assault prevention, domestic violence prevention, family advocacy and military and family readiness to reinforce physical, mental, social and spiritual resiliency.

The IRO’s mission is focused on primary prevention, aiming to address issues before they manifest. This proactive approach involves not just implementing evidence-based strategies but also fostering a cultural shift within the Air Force.

“We have to pull back the curtain and deal with what is going on, what is the root cause of the situation,” said Teresa Shipman, 17th TRW IRO director. “We recognized that when Airmen go through training or get to their first base, they don’t always have the life skills needed to handle and deal with stress or problem-solving, so until we help give Airmen those tools, nothing will change.”

The IRO has begun to make a visible impact with its strategy to engage with the base community. It involves various stakeholders, such as suicide prevention peer facilitators and resilience trainers as well as creates a sense of collective ownership of prevention efforts.

Rivera Velasquez couldn’t hide her joy as she shared the news of increasing volunteer participation in the programs offered by the IRO. This reflects a growing awareness and commitment to prevention and resilience and a promising future.

“Seeing the ownership from both the bottom and the top is really inspirational,” said Rivera Velasquez. “It shows that we have the right people in place to make this change actually happen.”

IRO will become an integral part of the Air Force’s strategy for readiness and retention by demonstrating the effectiveness of proactive prevention measures. It represents a critical step forward in the DoD’s commitment to all its personnel's mental well-being.