SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – In January 2020, the Air Force conceptualized a new strategy called the Base Operational Support Team to support squadrons as they combat physical, psychosocial, and environmental factors.
BOST is a multidisciplinary team of professionals comprised of a team manager, social worker, and strength and conditioning coach who focus on optimizing performance one unit at a time. They work together by observing squadrons and identifying a range of challenges that compromise mission-readiness while recommending functional services that increase overall performance.
“It’s a new concept that the [Air Force] has explored to try and eliminate some of those barriers that people have to getting services,” said licensed clinical social worker Katie Thaxton. “It’s about improving operational readiness. If we bring the resources and assets to the unit, they are more likely to utilize it, as opposed to having to go out of their way to get help.”
BOST spends about 4-6 months in each unit. Units undergo a risk assessment where injuries, profile usages and mental health referrals are compiled to identify those units that are at a higher risk.
Though BOST prioritizes these units, their goal is to reach every unit to ensure members are in peak condition physically and mentally. After the team leaves a unit, they perform reach-backs to check on progress over time and provide additional education and resources as necessary. It’s a continuous process to optimizing performance.
“The idea is to not add time to the member’s days,” said team manager Lisa Richards. “We’re not asking them to come before work or stay after work; we want to meet them where they’re at. Hopefully this idea will give time back to the unit as well, so they won’t have to be out as much for other appointments across the base.”
Physically, BOST strives to prevent injuries and reduce the recovery time for those who have injuries. They focus on teaching people the proper ways to warm-up and exercise, while preparing them for fitness tests like the Tier 2.
Mentally, the team aims to eliminate or reduce the stigma of mental health by providing a safe place for members to discuss concerns. Together, these elements increase member’s ability and readiness to deploy while also imparting tools that will last a lifetime.
“We want to impart the tools that they need, so that when they are in a deployed setting, they have those tools and resources to help them overcome whatever it is they may face,” Richards said.
BOST is adamant about growing their team to help further serve the body, mind and soul of each squadron member. They are looking to expand their three-member team to six by adding a physical therapist, clinical psychologist and an active duty registered dietician.
“It’s a dynamic team, it’s continuing to evolve,” Richards said. “What we look like today might not be what we look like in a year. We may have more diverse assets in that timeframe. It’s exciting to be a part of something like this. Everybody has their reasons for wanting to be on a team like this, but the bottom-line driver for all of us is that we want to help people. It’s all about trying to make everybody the best person they can be and an asset to the unit.”