UNDISCLOSED LOCATION, Southwest Asia --
When the weight of the world weighs heavily on your mind, the Helping Agencies Team is there to help sort it out.
Because circumstances are different for every Airmen, it can be daunting to find out which agency is the appropriate one to provide assistance. In some cases, multiple agencies are involved or able to help.
The 332d Air Expeditionary Wing’s Helping Agencies Team, commonly referred to as the HAT, is a group of helping agencies that are united to connect and guide Airmen, building resiliency and providing tools to cope with life challenges and military service. When there is a need they also provide Airmen the resources to get assistance in times when it feels like their world is falling apart.
Agencies that make up the HAT are the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, Equal Opportunity office, Inspector General, Legal office, Mental Health, Chapel staff, Victim Advocate, Physical Therapy, and First Sergeants.
“The HAT’s mission is to proactively improve the quality of life for Airmen,” said Col. Mead, 332 AEW vice commander and HAT chairman. “Rather than just react, we want to proactively connect to help demystify what all the agencies do with the tools they have.”
One thing Mead clarified is that there are going to be times when the agencies are reactive in their primary duties when handling cases or taking care of victims. However, he noted that the HAT’s goal is a culture change to proactively engage and connect with Airmen.
“My focus for the HAT is taking care of Airmen,” said Mead. “Getting out to meet them makes Airmen smarter on what the agencies are capable of.”
Mead reflected on his squadron commander days.
“If I had known that agencies taught personality classes, I would have brought them in,” said Mead. “Knowing your culture and each agencies’ tools can help you figure out how to positively impact your environment.”
One of the HAT members, Master Sgt. Smith, 332 AEW inspector general complaints and resolutions, said there are times where the HAT travels in pairs or groups to explain the differences and services between the agencies.
“Some of the challenges Airmen face are delineating who handles what issue,” said Smith. “They don’t want to get turned away, because they went to the wrong agency. That’s where the HAT comes in.”
Capt. Erickson, 332 AEW SARC and HAT lead, elaborated stating that shame is a barrier, because Airmen may feel afraid that they are going to create more problems that can slow their mission down. Erickson explained how the HAT helps put minds at ease.
“We focus on building connection and trust,” said Erickson. “Interacting with Airmen or their friends helps educate them on who we are and that we are a team.”
Some of the differences with the HAT’s approach is less briefing and more engagement with Airmen’s in their work centers. “The HAT offers several risk free classes geared toward prevention and culture change,” said Erickson. “We counter misinformation and stigmas out there and encourage people to seek help early.”
To Mead, it is not just proactive approaches and connection, but Airmen also knowing each agencies’ role. “The synergy of the HAT working together and understanding each other’s roles is critical,” said Mead. “If an Airman goes to an agency and needs to speak in confidence, every agency knows they can point them to a Chaplain who has 100 percent confidentiality.”
Mead also stressed that each agency knows the skills and strengths of each other and can meet an Airmen’s needs by pointing them toward the best resources. For Mead, the HAT’s meeting of the minds, where all the agencies come together is his favorite meeting. The team picks up on trends and discusses how to approach them, while staying within the boundaries of confidentiality and law.
“I would hope it doesn’t become formal or a codified process,” said Mead. “Nothing will replace Airmen caring for Airmen in an informal and purposeful way, tailored to the specific demands of different organizations.”
To learn more about the HAT’s classes or to setup a visit, contact the HAT lead or reach out to any one of the agencies listed: Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, Equal Opportunity office, Inspector General, Legal office, Mental Health, Chapel staff, Victim Advocate, Physical Therapy, or contact your First Sergeant.