In 2017, the Air Force lost 62 Active Duty Airmen to suicide. Many of those losses being men and wom-en that wore the coveted blue beret. The Brave Badge Initiative is a social media platform that has strengthened the Security Forces community and is focused to changing the culture of every squadron. The founder of The Brave Badge Initiative, TSgt Calin A. Cronin, devised the idea after identifying the need for a crisis platform while stationed at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. After spending the next 6 months engineering the services of the platform, The Brave Badge Initiative was launched in September of 2018, just months after he arrived to Eielson AFB, Alaska.
The administrative team consists of TSgt Cronin; TSgt Sean Batson out of Malmstrom AFB, Montana; TSgt Bryan Thayer out of St. Paul ARS, Minnesota; TSgt Christian Kampe out of Joint Base Andrews, Maryland and SSgt David Borrego out of Malmstrom AFB, Montana. “Our goal is to ultimately lower suicides and fuel a climate of revitalized Security Forces members,” Cronin said. “We aspire to encourage active intervention and provide tools/lessons learned for comrades to lead someone to professional resources or resilient methods to overcome any Security Forces career-field related crisis.” He went on to add, “I am so grateful for this team and what they have given to our Defenders. They have taken on a great responsibility to be 24/7 available to any Defender that is battling with something that they can’t overcome.”
The Brave Badge Initiative offers several avenues to share personal insight and opinion across the career field. As the first Security Forces crisis platform to ever launch an anonymous messaging tool, the admin-istrative team has received dozens of testimonies from retired, active and recently-separated members who were struggling with anxiety, depression, or suicidal thoughts. Voting polls are also delivered to the masses to bring light to specific topics that affect our career field’s mental health. Other than providing resources, programs and articles of how to cope with issues that many Security Forces members are bat-tling every day, The Brave Badge Initiative has become a reporting tool to alert the career field when a tragic loss has occurred. “This is probably the hardest part of this responsibility. Not only is the team try-ing to cross-match information to make sure it is accurate, but we are trying to pay the ultimate respect to the unit and family left behind,” said Cronin. “Every time our team confirms a loss in the career field, we check on each other as Wingmen. Having the responsibility to inform others and trying to maintain an outpour of resiliency for our followers comes with a lot of stress. There is no doubt, we are synchronized and know that WE must be resilient to encourage the resiliency in others.” The platform has many plans for the future and seeks to find methods to assist Defender families who have lost Defender loved ones.
2019 has brought a large discussion to suicide and resiliency across the Air Force. Currently, the Air Force has lost over a 100 Airmen to suicide. On 1 August 2019, The CSAF General David Goldfein directed an Air Force-wide Resilience Tactical Pause for all Wings to execute, giving an opportunity to devise plans on lowering suicide and strengthening our readiness. Platforms such as The Brave Badge Initiative have echoed that stand-down and are encouraging their followers to be intrusive and active in helping other Defenders. The discussion of suicide and not being everyday ready as a Defender comes with many stigmas, yet the administrative team is working each day to bury those stigmas and instill bravery in each Defender to come forward if they are struggling.
With their more than 6,000 followers in less than a year, The Brave Badge Initiative has been commended for their contributions on several occasions. The Air University Command Chief, CMSgt Todd Simmons, who is also originally a Defender, has publicly recognized the platform on numerous occasions and has stated, “there were numerous grass-root efforts started over the past year to get after combating suicides, spreading awareness, and speaking directly to those in need of help. This is just one of those efforts I have watched and admired.”
The Brave Badge Initiative team encourages all Defenders and Airmen to find any platform or resource that exists that they can connect with. The Brave Badge Initiative is one of many platforms for the De-fender community, and they encourage Airmen to consider other resources like the Air Force’s Resiliency website and the local programs offered at installations across the globe. Their signature hashtag “#StayBrave” has turned into a movement to increase mental health awareness and communication among all ranks. Upholding their creed, “Saving Each Other, To Save Others”, the team at The Brave Badge Initiative is giving all Defenders a chance to rescue each other, no matter the crisis.
SAVING EACH OTHER, TO SAVE OTHERS
VETERAN CRISIS HOTLINE 1-800-273-8255 OPT 1.