SOAR helps teen rise to challenges of military life

  • Published
  • By Rebecca Ward

Christeen Greenwell is an Airman, military spouse and the mother of a teen. She’s also one of the founders of a resiliency program for teens at Edwards Air Force Base called Support, Outreach, Action, Resilience.

SOAR was created in the aftermath of two teen deaths by suicide in 2020 – one of whom was the best friend of her daughter.

“She had just spent the weekend with us for my daughter’s birthday. Her mom made a comment to me that she hadn’t seen her daughter smile like that in a long time,” said Greenwell, Air Force Test Center management assistant.

Greenwell said the two girls had not seen each other in a while because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Three days later, on Veteran’s Day, Greenwell discovered through social media that her daughter’s best friend had been rushed to the hospital after a suicide attempt. 

 “I broke down in tears because I had to figure out how I was going to go home on my daughter’s birthday and tell her that her best friend was probably not going to make it,” Greenwell said.

Greenwell’s daughter had to tell her best friend goodbye on the phone because of hospital COVID protocols.

Greenwell said the tragedy was devastating; she thought about how it could happen to any parent. Not only did her daughter’s best friend die by suicide, but another 17-year-old who lived on base near their home had died by suicide a few weeks earlier.

This was the catalyst for Greenwell. She along with Tech. Sgt. Janna Ybarra, then-412th Test Wing Airman and Family Readiness Center readiness noncommissioned officer in charge, and Ms. Ariel Eishen, spouse of then-412th Test Wing command chief, pulled together to create SOAR.

“We were like, we have to do something. We can’t just keep letting things happen,” said Greenwell.

That is when SOAR was created. The ultimate goal of the program is to help kids grow into healthy adults by developing good coping mechanisms for stress.

Greenwell said life presents challenges for everyone, and parents often don’t realize their kids are feeling some of the same external pressures they feel.

While the Department of the Air Force offers many resources to help military and civilian personnel, Greenwell said SOAR extends some of those tools and resources to teenagers. For example, the program has four teens certified as Resiliency Training Assistants.

SOAR also teaches a “Four Lenses” course, a personality assessment to help teens gain insights into themselves and each other.

SOAR is open to any teen in the area who is allowed on Edwards AFB, where the local public school is located. The program is promoted primarily on social media and is completely voluntary with parental permission. There is even a podcast the teenagers produce themselves, SOAR Teens, that features topics on resiliency, mental health and suicide prevention.

Greenwell would like to see SOAR grow outside of Edwards AFB and the Department of the Air Force. She said the demands of military life for any service member also presents unique challenges for their children.

“Our youth are serving, sacrificing, and going through things as well; we need to take care of them,” Greenwell said.

SOAR offers education, peer-to-peer mentoring, adult mentorship, a safe space and community, as well as resources unique to teens that focus on their needs and concerns. To learn more about SOAR, email