JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. --
To help Airmen adapt to the challenges faced by social distancing, Senior Master Sgt. Eric Bergery Jr., Senior Enlisted Manager of the Logistics, Engineering and Force Protection office, Air Force District of Washington, uses cloud-based video conference services to deliver interactive lessons focused on offering Airmen the necessary skills to build and maintain healthy relationships.
While the COVID-19 pandemic poses a threat to the physical health of millions, it can also pose an emotional threat for many. The concurrent social distancing measures and travel restrictions put in place leave many Airmen isolated in their dorms or crowded in their homes and uncertain about the future. These circumstances have the potential to become harmful to the mental health and fortitude of Airmen across the force.
Bergery first encountered his passion for teaching in 2008 as a member of the 421st Combat Training Squadron at Fort Dix, NJ. While there, he trained his comrades in base security operations, area security operations, as well as Phoenix Raven courses.
“I wanted to continue [teaching] in any way that I could,” said Bergery. “I figured if I wanted to teach then I would have to have more than just experience behind the podium.”
To hone his teaching skills, Bergery continued teaching at least one professional development class a quarter. He went on to earn two Community College of the Air Force degrees, a bachelor’s and a master’s degree before being accepted as a communications professor at Prince George’s County Community College in 2017.
“If there is a word with a deeper meaning than passionate, that would be how I would describe how I feel regarding this subject,” said Bergery. “In my own personal experience, I’ve spent 11 years avoiding seeking mental health care. I hid because I wanted to keep my badge, my beret, my weapons, and my security clearance. I didn’t want to be labeled negatively as the person who was seeking mental health, the person who was ’weak’ or the person who was struggling at life. All of which couldn’t be further from the truth!
“I was lucky enough to have a break-through moment in my own life in 2018,” said Bergery. “I found what I believe to be most important; to invest in your people and provide a healthier and more productive work environment.”
With that, Bergery and his wife Lysette, who holds a master’s degree in psychology, created a curriculum to combat the issue of mental health in the Air Force.
“My wife and I believe in learning from one another,” said Bergery. “We believe each person has a story and a uniqueness to them. Between our education, research and experiences, we created courses that assist in guiding individuals and teams through and beyond boundaries that limit relationships and connections, both personally and professionally.”
The Bergery family collaborated on multiple courses ranging from topics such as resiliency to the power of vulnerability and diversity and inclusion.
“I attended the diversity and inclusion course,” said 2nd Lt. Henry Edwards III, Chief of Protocol at the 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. “The discussion was real, relevant, and applicable to today’s society. Eric’s professionalism, leadership, and love for education was on full display. The open discussion forum flowed smoothly and everyone’s opinion was welcomed and added value to the discussion.”
Investing in others, holding more deliberate conversations, being genuinely interested in those around you, and committing to memory the unique factors that individualize a person, are some of the things Bergery suggests during his courses to help build healthy relationships in the workplace and in one’s personal life, as well as to increase morale and improve workplace cohesion.
“People are the foundation of our organizations,” said Chief Master Sgt. Gary Bubar, a security forces manager with the 88th Security Forces Squadron at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. “These courses provide the skills to reinforce that.”
As Airmen endure and adapt to the work and life challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the mission becomes increasingly dependent on teamwork, vulnerability and sustained connectiveness.
“During this time, it has been challenging for many,” said Bergery. “But the good thing is I have a great support structure made up of not just my loved ones at home but also the family I have gained at work.”
Use this time to reach out to your coworkers, wingmen and family members to invest in the relationships that add value to your everyday life.
To learn more about how to do that click the link below for more courses and workshops by SMSgt Eric Bergery at www.eachone-reachone.com.