Civilian and military employees at Robins Air Force Base carry the important load of supporting the missions of Robins and the entire Air Force.
"If the nation calls, we have to be ready at a moment's notice, and that includes all of the aircraft and all of the airframes, and all of the work being done here," said Robins Wing Chaplain Jonathan Wade.
He says that pressure on top of personal struggles like illness, money problems, and relationships can become too much for some to handle.
"We've been told we have one of the highest if not the highest civilian suicide rate in the Air Force," he said.
Robins officials would not confirm that to 13WMAZ nor would they provide information on the number of employees who have taken their lives, but Chaplain Wade says even one is too many.
That's why is 2015, religious leaders of all faiths from across central Georgia came together to form the Robins Ministerial Alliance.
"There are people out there who can help them find their ground again, and that's what we try to do whether they're on base or off base," said Darrell Vandervort, the pastor at First Christian Church and a member of the Alliance.
Chaplain Wade says he and his team of military chaplains have their hands tied when it comes to providing ongoing care for civilian employees.
"I, by Title 10, can't provide that to our civilian airmen," he said. "So who do they go to? Who is their face-to-face resource?"
For the longest time, Chaplain Wade says the only answer he could provide was the list of churches in the phonebook.
"Now I can hand them over to a group of specialists that understand airmen issues," he said.
The Alliance aims to teach religious leaders at churches throughout the area about the specific stresses and troubles that airmen face. Chaplain Wade says those leaders can then better keep an eye on the airmen in their congregations and will have a better understanding of how to approach someone they believe is struggling.
The 21st Century Partnership and the local chapter of the union have also put together a website full of resources available to airmen. There is even a group of on-call clergy who can respond to a crisis situation at any time.
Through all of these efforts, Chaplain Wade says, "just in the last six months, we have done nine suicide attempt saves."
However, he says they still have a lot of work to do.
Right now, the Robins Ministerial Alliance is working to become a non-profit organization to better help employees.
Pastor Vandervort says they also hope to encourage more religious leaders of all faiths to join their efforts.
If you or someone you know needs to contact the on-call clergy team, the phone number is (478) 352-1190.
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