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POTFF helps SOF Airmen, families stay resilient

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Stacia Zachary
  • 352nd Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
After being at war for more than 14 years, the U.S. military’s special operations forces seams show signs of fraying. U.S. Special Operations Command’s Preservation of the Force and Families program is designed to help combat this fray.

For the 352nd Special Operations Wing, the POTFF staff here takes direct aim at problems its Air Commandos and their families are confronted with by tailoring their options for assistance and offer events that will benefit the whole.

"We have a variety of providers, with diverse skill sets and frequently use a collaborative approach, to get Airmen and families back on track," said Chap. (Capt.) James Pitts, 352nd Special Operations Wing chaplain.

POTFF, a USSOCOM program, is designed to address the pressure on the force and their families, to maintain and improve readiness, operational effectiveness and the immediate and long-term well-being of the force. The program ultimately pays out in dividends because it is an avenue operators and their families can access when they don’t have the time or ability to take advantage of resources regularly available to other service members.

“Special Operations Forces are asked to train and perform along compressed timeline, and it can be difficult for them to get the care they need — care other Airmen might more easily gain access to,” Pitts said. “USSOCOM wanted to better facilitate expedient care for operators’ needs, across the spectrum of health, to keep them battlefield ready. AFSOC has since included all of its members for some level of POTFF care.”

Under normal circumstances, days or weeks can pass while an operator is waiting for an appointment. Having a POTFF team can mean the same operator can be seen the day after or even the day of their request, even outside normal business hours. POTFF utilizes the Medical Treatment Facilities or dedicated POTFF facility, but some counselors have even more flexibility.

“Because each POTFF team is unit specific, they get to know one another so it’s easier to build trust and get to appropriate care faster,” Pitts said. “And any hesitation to seek care is greatly reduced.”
Though originally known as “Pressure on the Force” and geared toward service members only, the program opened up shortly after its conception to include family members and dependents to get the same access to care.

“USSOCOM quickly discovered that family plays a huge role in combat readiness,” Pitts said. “The program has expanded to include care for the family, which in turn increases readiness.”

The POTFF team takes a proactive stance on preserving the force and its families by hosting regular events that boost morale and bolster familial ties. Recently, the POTFF staff hosted a Daddy-Daughter Dance, a Momster Mash and several squadron team building events out at a local ropes course.

"Much of resilience is about relationships – personal and professional; 'a three stranded cord is not soon broken',” Pitts said. “Having help as well as being help are enormously valuable.”

To ensure a holistic approach to readiness — meeting mental, physical, social and spiritual needs of SOF and their families— the 352nd SOW POTFF team stays in contact with several groups within the unit. They coordinate with key spouses, dorm councils and more support groups to gain the most up to date information on issues affecting the unit.

“After meeting with a POTFF provider, an operator will be referred on to another agency if warranted, such as the medical group,” said Mark Killin, POTFF Social Worker from Ironton, Ohio. “The program isn’t meant to replace existing services, but to augment the level of care to meet SOCOM and AFSOC’s mission requirements. As we say, ‘Any Time, Any Place.’”