Courtesy photo (Photo by Airman 1st Class Caitlin Russell)
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska —
The North Star Unit Instrument takes approximately ten to fifteen minutes and can be taken via smartphone, tablet, laptop, or any Internet-connected device. It will generate information on current problems possibly unknown to commanders as well as risks and privacy concerns in relation to those problems.
North Star is facilitated by New York University, and will appear in emails with “Non-DoD Source” in the subject line. Another option is the use of a QR code that will automatically direct Airmen to the instrument.
“One aspect of Task Force True North is the North Star Instrument, that will be sent out via email from Nov. 5 through Nov. 29,” said Bodey Turner, 673d Air Base Wing Task Force True North program manager. “The North Star Instrument is a squadron-focused, proactive effort that compliments other reactive and proactive Air Force efforts to address ‘secretive problems,’ or personal issues for Airmen they may not be comfortable talking about with their coworkers.”
In order to both protect Airmen’s personal information and to give researchers as much insight as possible, the instrument is completely anonymous. Airmen can help themselves and each other the most by answering questions as truthfully as possible, Turner said.
“This program really gives us insight about how an individual Airman’s life is, not only on the job but at home,” Turner said. “We can see the issues they are struggling with, like alcohol misuse, suicidal ideation and family violence. The instrument helps the chain of command better understand their Airmen, while protecting individual privacy.”
After the results are collected, commanders will receive raw data, which compares specific squadrons to the overall Air Force. Results are shared with the unit and with recommended actions to help target specific issues.
“These results will be able to show us how we’re doing comparatively and what we can do to make the Air Force experience better for our Airmen,” Turner said. “The overall purpose of the survey is to implement and test different levels of support to enhance resiliency, normalize help-seeking behavior, prevent violence and respond to our Airmen’s needs.”
To be able to offer a more immediate response to certain issues, the North Star Instrument is interactive and provides several self-help resources available once it is completed.
“While it does give you the option to speak to a chaplain or mental health professional, it also offers online research material and phone applications you can download,” Turner said.
Turner also mentioned that unit-embedded social workers and mental health technicians were implemented as part of Task Force True North to help break down barriers about mental health. Those professionals work within the units to encourage Airmen to rethink old stigmas surrounding mental health care.
“Taking the step to have that conversation, even just a general conversation; can go a long way in normalizing help-seeking behavior,” said Ashley Wofford, 673d Logistics Readiness Squadron embedded licensed clinic social worker. “When your time comes to leave the military, the stressors don’t suddenly disappear. Learning how to cope with them now can assist you in the long run.”
These surveys will be sent out every six months continuously for each unit.
For more information, contact Mr. Turner at 552-2755.
The North Star Instrument is available online at https://www.nyu.edu/projects/northstar/NS.html