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Cannon Air Force Base helps airmen heal and prepare for the invisible wounds of war

Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 6:38 PM CDT
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AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - Before battle, service members receive weeks of tactical and physical training to execute their missions.

However, there is one fight many members of the military are not prepare for, the moral one.

“I’ve had instances personally,” said Capt. Richard B. Campbell, 27th special operations wing chaplain. “Where I sit down with an airmen and they were ordered to take some action and so they did the action and then they have to do the damage assessment and in doing the damage assessment, stuff is revealed that crushes their soul. They then have to go through that process in their mind of ‘Men, is what I did okay?’.”

That guilt is called moral injury and according some studies is associated with increased risk of suicide.

In the military, moral injury can come from taking a life or from survivor’s guilt.

To help address this spiritual and moral fight, Cannon Air Force Base started the Moral Injury Training, where trained chaplains will teach about war theory, why the reasons America goes to war are valid, the basics of morals and how to build an atmosphere within units and homes that allows for healing.

“We just learned how to do our job and that was it,” said Lt. Col Allison Hardwick, 3rd special operations squadron commander. “There wasn’t that preparation psychologically and mentally to be able to handle some of the things we see and do. Right now, my airmen are super young. They’re super motivated, they’re wonderful but I also realize they’re younger and this is the first job that they may’ve had in the military so, we’re doing a lot more to get after caring for them.

The training also includes reminding the airmen that they’re not the sole decision makers.

“It’s showing them how to link it back to the good that was there, that they were taught as a child growing up and how that action brings back that ultimate good.” said Campbell.

He adds that while moral injuries present the same symptoms as PTSD, they’re not the same.

“Moral injury, really deals with ones conscience, with ones soul. Again, there is a big difference between fear and shame and you have to go about treating those differently,” said Campbell.

The training has also be made available to spouses.

Considered at-risk units will be specifically targeted, but training will be available for all units, civilians and contractors.

A video version of the training will also be available for those who can’t attend an in-person session.

“I really wished we had something like this years ago,” said Hardwick. “I think for the future we’re going to have more resilient airmen.”

The length and frequency of the training vary from squadron to squadron.

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