AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy --
Being an Airman isn’t just about joining the U.S. Air Force.
This belief is what encouraged 31st Maintenance Group leadership to create the Airman 4 Life program, which aims to teach Airmen important life skills to prepare them for life outside of the military - whether that be at the end of a four to six year enlistment, or retirement 20 years down the road.
“I’ve seen a lot of young [Airmen] come in and do their four, six years, and they leave with nothing more than having worked on jets,” said Master Sgt. Ricardo Montelongo, 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron aircraft section chief. “The intent of the program was to give something back so that by the time these guys do come out of their enlistment, they’ve added some sort of value to the time they have served.”
The program was implemented during the summer after the 555th Fighter Squadron returned from deployment as a way for 31st AMXS leadership to check in on Airmen during the initial COVID-19 lockdown.
“The [31st AMXS] commander was genuinely worried about the mental health and wellbeing of the individuals who were at home and deliberately put aside time as we were starting to come back to work to check on his unit personnel,” said Tech. Sgt. Trevor Bennett, 31st AMXS F-16 specialist expediter. “With the reduced flying schedule it allowed for outside agencies to come to the unit and perform mental health checks and other helpful services to give the commander direct feedback on the atmosphere.”
Topics covered throughout the program range from a core curriculum of time management and followership lessons to ‘electives’ such as financial management and car repair.
“One of the lessons I want to teach personally is a cooking class,” said Montelongo, urging the Airmen to rely less on fast food and energy drinks not only to stay healthy, but to save money.
“I recommend this program to literally everyone, even civilians and other military branches,” said Bennett. “I really think this breaks up the monotony and allows for people in the work center to believe their supervision truly cares about them. Implement this program Air Force wide, for all sections and all units, because I feel it really works to inspire the best in us.”