Clinicians, leaders regroup during recruiting mental health summit

  • Published
  • By Lauren Russell
  • 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Mental Health professionals from the 66th Medical Squadron hosted an all-service summit here Sept. 28 to forge a way ahead in supporting recruiters and their families.

The Hanscom AFB medical professionals spoke with 17 leaders and recruiters from around New England and New York about an actionable strategy and tactics that could be used to improve unit and individual well-being for recruiters in the field, following an initial summit on the topic in March. 

“This region is a unique market and has been historically challenging for recruiters,” said Maj. Kim Forsythe, 66 MDS Mental Health Flight officer. “Professionally, all of these service members are competitors, so it says a lot that they’ve all come together to figure out the root of the problem and collaborate on finding a way to solve it.” 

Many recruiting positions are considered special duty assignments meaning members serve temporarily outside of their military specialty, where they are responsible for canvassing their assigned areas to man the armed forces. These duties often place them geographically separated from their units and available resources.

Maj. John Blue Star, 66 MDS Mental Health Flight commander, explained that high work demands, and the absence of resources and community found near larger bases, place recruiters at a much greater risk for burnout.

During the event, Blue Star presented a proposed “psychoeducation” plan to effectively bolster resilience and well-being that utilizes his flight’s services, the Hanscom AFB Integrated Resiliency Team, and support from the Home Base Veteran and Family Care organization.

In addition to a six-week resilience course hosted by Home Base, the plan includes tailored self-care agreements, bolstered peer support and integrated resilience resources, and an increased vectoring program.

Blue Star emphasized that self-care is a necessity, and that members should be investing rest, sleep, nutrition, exercise, and social connection into their “body budgets.” Without proper deposits, he said clinical burnout will become inevitable.

“We perform better when we feel better, so this will require a culture change for us to ensure these concepts become a priority from the highest leader’s level, down the chain,” said Blue Star.

The Hanscom AFB clinicians also explained that for some recruiters, their “body budget” may benefit by supplementing medication.

Lt. Col. Ryan Gough, 66 MDS chief of Aerospace Medicine, who treats many of the recruiters in the region, spoke about his approach to clinical treatments.

“Much like how we’re working to break down the stigmas of mental health treatment, we need to break down the stigmas around medication,” he said. “We as leaders need to remove those barriers to care.”

According to Gough, treatment of anxiety or depression is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and that he encourages his patients to explore integrated resiliency, medication, or a combination of both. 

“The first thing I do with patients is alleviate the fears that getting on a medication means the member will have to choose between their mental health and their career, which is not true at all,” he said.

Gough acknowledged some recruiters may have to seek care from civilian physicians. And while many medications would likely not impact a member’s career, individuals can reach out to Gough prior to accepting a prescription to get more information.

Gough can be reached at

Following the brief, attendees spoke about additional barriers that could impact implementing the plan, and how Hanscom AFB organizations can continue to be a resource in the meantime.

“You have a team of fierce advocates here for you, and we will be persistent in working to solve the issues that our recruiters are facing,” said Forsythe.

For additional information about the proposed plan, email

For information about Hanscom AFB Integrated Resiliency, or to have a master resilience trainer attend a unit training, email