Air traffic control instructors use CPI to keep Airmen focused

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Holly Mansfield
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs

Each Air Force member is briefed on mental health and how to detect mental health issues in their wingmen but for some personnel, they may not really see just how beneficial the training is until they need to use it.

The 334th Training Squadron, with the help of the Mental Health Clinic, implemented its own mental health briefings tailored for air traffic and combat control students going through the air traffic control course at Keesler.

“When we go to the mental health briefings they tell us different ways to stay calm during stressful situations,” said Airman Basic Colyn Williams, 334th TRS student. “It’s really nice because they actually show us different muscle relaxation techniques and breathing exercises instead of just telling us. We also go over how staying physically and spiritually fit will help us stay focused in the classroom.”

Each briefing is designed to help relieve some of the stressors the students may experience while attending the 70-day air traffic control course.

“The courses may be stressful to some Airmen because they are being challenged to learn new information and then demonstrate it in a short amount of time,” said Tech. Sgt. Danielle Kirby, 334th TRS air traffic control instructor supervisor. “Students do not talk to actual aircraft while in training, but knowing they are being trained to eventually control aircraft can stress them out. There is a mandatory study program set in place and a lot of our students go back from school and study while other career fields are not as demanding in that aspect.”

The air traffic control instructors started the mental health briefings through the Continuous Process Improvement program to help make the course less stressful for the students. The briefings also give them information about the mental, spiritual, physical and social pillars of Comprehensive Airman Fitness. 

“I was having a hard time sleeping until I went to the first mental health briefing here at the 334th TRS,” said Airman Basic Christopher Guillory, 334th TRS student. “I started using the breathing exercises, muscle relaxation and laying down and that’s helped me get through the stressful times during class and stay mentally balanced.”  

“I sometimes panic whenever I mess up during class or when we are studying at the dorms so I control my breathing to help me refocus, get my head back in the game and be successful during my tests,” said Williams.

Williams and Guillory have also used the information taught during the briefings to detect signs of stress in their classmates. 

“One of my good friends who is going through the course sometimes has a problem with others doubting her ability to do well,” said Williams. “I always tell her to relax, keep studying and stay positive because no one decides if you fail a test except for you. She’s in the class ahead of me and hasn’t failed a single test because she uses the relaxation techniques to stay calm. If you stay focused, study and use these techniques you will pass the course with a great score.”

The students can also use these skills once they are out of technical school and working at different bases around the Air Force to help themselves and others through the rigors of being an air traffic or combat controller.

“I’ll be able to use the things we learn in the briefings for myself and others I work with once I get to my first base,” said Guillory. “When I become a supervisor I’ll be able to help my Airmen that I supervise stay calm so they can be really good at their job. Just relaxing and taking those deep breaths will help each Airman be successful during the work day.”

The 334th TRS has been able to make the life of the air traffic and combat control Airmen less stressful through each briefing which helps boost the number of graduates from the courses according to Lt. Col. Steve Mullins, 334th TRS commander

“As most know, air traffic and combat control are inherently stressful career fields and we have worked hard to mitigate the effects of this stress, anxiety and test taking worries with a Team Keesler CPI approach,” said Mullins. “Our graduation rates have never been better and our Airmen appear more resilient. We as a team, student and staff alike, will keep looking for any and all CPI ways to train, develop and inspire our command and control Airmen.”