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Air Force seeks survival council advocates

Tech. Sgt. Jamaal Smalls, NCO in charge of Honor Guard, presents the flag during six-person flag-fold training, July 25, 2019, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Smalls’ experience as a master military training instructor helped him develop his professionalism and attention to detail that he now uses in Honor Guard. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Azaria E. Foster)

Tech. Sgt. Jamaal Smalls, NCO in charge of Honor Guard, presents the flag during six-person flag-fold training, July 25, 2019, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Smalls’ experience as a master military training instructor helped him develop his professionalism and attention to detail that he now uses in Honor Guard. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Azaria E. Foster)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. –Air Force officials are seeking survivor representatives to serve as part of an advocacy council geared towards supporting families of fallen service members.

The council will act as an Air Force forum to push survivor programs, recap key initiatives, and secure vectors to strengthen support to survivors and solidify their role in the larger Air Force family.

“Nothing is cookie cutter when a service member passes away and how we respond shouldn’t be either,” said Brandi Ruiz, 66th Force Support Squadron, Airman and Family Readiness Center flight chief. “A panel of survivors can tell us from their perspectives what we’re missing and what the families actually need.”

The Survivor Advocacy Council will consist of 10 to 12 advocates, selected through the diversity of circumstance to ensure the widest representation of the survivor population as possible.

To be eligible, applicants must be a surviving next-of-kin, such as a spouse, adult child, parent or sibling, of an Airman who died while on active duty, guard or reservist duty. The cause of death can be from combat or terrorist activities, a service-connected accident or non-service connected accidents, illness, suicide, or natural causes.

Letters and applications are currently being mailed to surviving families in the Hanscom AFRC area of responsibility, which includes all of New England and parts of upstate New York, said Ruiz. However, families who do not receive a letter and feel they are eligible to apply, can contact the AFRC directly for information.

“If a survivor has relocated to our area, they can reach out to us and we will get that application to them,” she said.

Applications must be completed and submitted to AFPC.DPFFF.AFFF@us.af.mil  no later than Nov. 30.

Ruiz said she hopes the new initiative will make the process of caring for surviving families more fluid and personalized.  

“I would urge those who are interested to take the time to apply so we can make their voices heard,” she said.

Applications can be found at www.afpc.af.mil/benefits-and-entitlements/air-force-families-forever/ or at local Airman and Family Readiness Centers.