Dover AFB seeks to increase resilience through True North program

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Stephani Barge
  • 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Dover Air Force Base is in the early stages of implementing True North, an embedded mental and spiritual health support program created by the U.S. Air Force to provide tools and resources to help increase resiliency of Airmen within a unit.

“The goal of the program is to decrease negative outcomes such as suicide, sexual assault, domestic violence, workplace violence and child maltreatment,” said Chaplain (Capt.) William Guy, 436th Airlift Wing chaplain and True North provider. “It also encourages optimal human performance and enhancement of force and family well-being.”

The program aims to meet these goals through three primary avenues: Engaging forces and families early, normalizing help-seeking behavior as a strength and providing decentralized care options through the placement of helpful resources closer to the forces they support.

Created in 2019 to help units such as maintenance, security forces, and logistics, True North has already supported more than 21,600 active-duty Airmen across six major commands.

“True North brings much needed mental health [support] to high-risk units at Dover AFB,” said Breanna Pelleschi, 436th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron licensed clinical social worker and True North provider. “Most of the time people just need a place to vent, be heard, or bounce ideas off another person, which are not truly medical issues. But the small things people deal with daily can build into big issues if they go untreated. Providing a safe place inside the unit to provide those services will mitigate a lot of longer-term mental health issues.”

The strength of the True North program lies in its embedded support team, which can consist of a mental health expert, chaplain and religious affairs Airman, depending on the manning of a location, said Guy. The team will provide units with one-on-one encounters, counseling sessions and group discussions that provide education on soft-skill tools everyone needs such as communication, conflict resolution, expectation management and anger management.

The team also plans to collaborate with other base helping agencies to target specific needs of a unit, bringing the experts to the Airmen. But beyond all of the tools and resources, True North also offers opportunities for connection.

“The goal and success of mental and spiritual health is to first establish a relationship with our Airmen,” said Guy. “There is no better way for this to be done, than to have [people] embedded in the units to better connect with Airmen.”

Once fully operational, the Dover AFB True North team of three, which include Guy, Pelleschi and Tech. Sgt. Eric Feliciano, 512th AW chapel operations noncommissioned officer in charge, will permanently embed into the 436th Mission Generation Group, where they will rotate through the various units.

“Bringing the True North program to the MGG will provide the extra support and resources necessary to keep our Airmen mentally and spiritually healthy,” said Col. Bary Flack, 436th MGG commander. “Our MGG Airmen work hard to sustain a high-tempo mission here at Dover [AFB]. We’re excited to see how embedding these professionals into the unit will impact the resiliency of our Airmen.”