Born of the need for open, honest conversation on the impact of 20 years of the Global War on Terror and the Afghanistan withdrawal felt by the special ops community, the Military Special Operations Family Collaborative teamed up with the Global SOF Foundation to develop a virtual space akin to the team room atmosphere well known to the SOF community. Our organizations work together to make sure our SOF Team Room events:
- Educate SOF families on the connection between professionalism, well-being, and legacy.
- Flatten communication within the SOF community (families, servicemembers, leaders, and relevant organizations).
- Equip SOF service members, veterans, and families with relevant, evidence-based, and effective resources so they can take the next step.
SGM Matthew Parrish kicked-off this Team Room as our Master of Ceremonies and Dr. Chris Frueh moderated a powerful discussion with our keynote speaker, the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (SEAC) Ramón “CZ” Colón-López.
Setting the Bar for Real, Candid Leader Conversations
SEAC Colón-López spent a majority of his career as an Air Force pararescueman, and he is the senior most enlisted officer in all our military. He leads with excellence and a down-to-earth approach that is humbling and motivating to all.
Candid Quotes from the Kick-off
AFG “After the last plane left, we were watching via VTC … I went back to my office …. shut the door, and sat and reflected. I thought about our fallen comrades …. Was it worth it? … Even our Allies and partners, was it worth it?….It was. Every mission we did to the best of our ability….. We laid it all on the line. Every single person who served did so magnificently well. I will tell you, do not let anyone take that from you …. Created a lot of different emotions. … It is ok to talk about it. But at the end of the day, think of the action you did, your responsibility for the good of the nation, and the good that is to come.”
SOF Lifestyle “SOF Path is a hard path…. A life without humor is a book without words…. When I look at the SOF culture, it is a hard life…. You put yourself through the ringer to prove you are worthy of that mission…. Once you get anointed as a special operator. … there isn’t much people can throw at you that you aren’t willing to take on. The problem is that we do it so often and so frequently that we become numb to a lot of things. Adversity becomes routine. Pain becomes nonexistent. Conflict becomes an expectation. It is almost like a drug you crave day in and day out ….What we are seeing now is a compilation of stress…. Man, the wheels are slowly coming off.”
At Home “We have to bring the families on board, too .… When you speak to the spouses, they are going through the same thing, too….We are just as vulnerable as the average person. It is just that our threshold for misery is so much higher, we tend to embrace the suck, just suck it up and our families are just the same. You tend to fly off the handle with different triggers. You tend to tune out your spouse at different times… “
SOF Who Feel Alone “the good thing about our communities is we have a very strong support mechanism. The guys in the team room will do anything for you…. We like to help each other out. For somebody that doesn’t have a family, … start with the person you trust the most then walk the rounds to get the help you need. If you are someone who is skeptical or afraid to get help you need, email me directly …. I’m in the global….”
Wellness Sprints on Team Room Topics
Following the bold conversation with the SEAC Colón-López and Chris, the Team Room pivoted into practical, interactive wellness sprints. Each of the six sprints took on frequently asked questions, and was led by SOF veterans and experts. They got in the mud, answered tough questions, and offered attendees relevant information or resources.
Here’s are some top take-aways from each sprint:
Sprint 1 – SOF Connection took-on Communication and Compartmentalization with Tom and Jen Satterly, All Secure Foundation
- Compartmentalization causes the family to make up their own stories about what you’re doing – worst fears, like death, infidelity, etc. Your spouse and family feel left out of your relationship with the service. You become accustomed to not talking and then it seems normal, but there are things you can talk about.
- Stay curious and not judgmental. Don’t be afraid of what you’ll find. Ask for help if you need it, learn, and struggle through it. Sometimes when you peel back the onion, it seems like it’s getting worse before it gets better, but you have to deal with it to heal.
- Relationships with kids: You have to build that relationship so they will come to you when they’re older. Respect their little problems so they will tell you their big problems in the future.
Sprint 2 – SOF Health & Performance addressed the Ground Truth on SGB and Psychedelics with Dr. Jeffrey Tiede and Dr. Lynnette Averill
- Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB) is a simple procedure, but it cannot take away the trauma of combat. It may be a tool to help you engage with trauma based psychotherapy. SGB is a safe procedure that can be used with behavioral health to calm the storm, to create relief and space to do other work that needs to be done. More Information Here
- Psychedelics are plant and animal based and clinically administered. They are not a “one-size- fits-all” intervention. There are risks. Psychedelics may have a unique effect on those who have not found effective treatment with mainstream medications. More Information Here
- Learn more about these interventions at the SOF Team Room follow-on event: Health Deep Dive March 21, 2022
Sprint 3 – SOF Mission & Transition addressed Balance and Excellence in Service with Ken Falke, Boulder Crest Foundation
- You have to understand what has happened and how to make sense of your experience. Warriors are the best society has to offer.
- Don’t let your military service be the last great thing you do.
- Men in particular need to get 2 things right – your job and your sleep
- Including your family is so important. It is often the shortest hours of our life that we mess up the most – that is the time spent with family – between work and sleep.
All Together for a Round Table Discussion
Our powerhouse line-up all came together for a final round table discussion in the Team Room. Dr. Frueh led the SOF wellness and legacy conversation with SEAC Colón-López and our Sprint leaders.
Treatment for Veterans “The next step is what Lynnette is doing on psychedelics; however, it just can’t be done in isolation. We will not have a pill or procedure that will undo combat trauma but excitingly the next decade will look a lot different than it did in the past.” – Dr. Jeff Tiede
Psychedelic Medicine “Some people will not have a robust experience or this [with psychedelic medicine] won’t be safe because it is the reality with everything. . . . The potential here is really exciting. Though when there is potential for great benefit there is potential for great harm. Trauma is really hard. . . The community focus of the military is a critical piece. It is a magical component there.” – Dr. Lynnette Averill
Getting Care to Active Duty “What can we do to decrease suicide rates? What can we do to decrease adverse behaviors in the Force? …. We cannot be risk averse when it comes to this. We have to be courageous enough to walk on the edge …. While being wise enough not to fall off the cliff.” – SEAC Colón-López
Future for Care “We need to get away from fragmented medicine…. We need a much more comprehensive view …. We’ve got to weave it all together.” – Dr. Chris Frueh
Matt rounded out the round table discussion and the Military Special Operations Family Collaborative’s Executive Director, KaLea Lehman, closed the Team Room with information about our new Health Deep Dive follow-on events and a special thanks to our partners who participated and made this candid conversation possible.
The Next SOF Team Room
The next SOF Team Room is May 11, 2022, and our Keynote Leader will be Lt Gen. Slife, the current Commander of Air Force Special Operations Command. This May’s Team Room will kick-off conversations on the transition from service. Our Health Sprints will cover Operator Syndrome/High Allostatic Load and other topics important to well-being and high performance. MSOF will host follow-on Health Deep Dive on Operator Syndrome/High Allostatic Load in June – to cover questions too nuanced for a Team Room.
As our GSF and MSOF teams line-up the May Team Room, what do you want us to address? What transition questions do you have? And, what candid conversation do you want to be part of? Email our team (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your questions and thoughts for the next candid Team Room conversation.
One more way you can contribute to the discussion is taking this quick medical survey.If you are SOF active duty or veteran, take the SOF for Life Medical Survey. It takes 6-8 minutes of your time. The Global SOF foundation will use it to shape their work and partners that provide critical resources to SOF.
Real talk doesn’t come cheap. We couldn’t have done it without our partners. A special thanks to:
- Our keynote guest, SEAC Ramón “CZ” Colón-López
- Dr. Chris Frueh for moderating discussions
- SGM Matthew Parrish, our Master of Ceremonies
- Our Content partners: All Secure Foundation, Boulder Crest Foundation, Dr. Jeffery Tiede and Dr. Lynnette Averill
- Our SOF Advocate Sponsor: Legacy
- Global SOF Foundation and Military Special Operations Family Collaborative Staff
If you want to make sure these candid conversations keep happening, consider sponsoring a SOF Team Room, email: email@example.com