PEASE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.H. --
Sitting in an office, whose door is always open, three senior leaders share a new tattoo and a daily reminder of a deeper connection.
Inside Chief Master Sgt. Robert Holt’s office, the Aircraft Maintenance Superintendent with the 157th Maintenance Group, Chief Master Sgt. Bernard Cho, the senior enlisted leader with the 157th MXG and Don Roussel, the director of psychological health with the 157th Air Refueling Wing, share the similar depictions of the ;IGY6 patch they chose for a tattoo.
;IGY6 stands for ‘I got your six', or ‘I got your back’. The letters symbolize camaraderie and the semicolon represents the choice to continue to live.
The three leaders played a key role in the growth of resiliency training and the ‘I got your six’ initiative at the 157th ARW.
“This is all part of putting people first,” said Holt. “Build connections, foster the rapport and prove to people that you do care and you’re a teammate; that’s what this tattoo means to me. It’s a daily reminder that yeah, we have a job to do but our Airmen are people and they matter.”
Each color on the patch carries a meaning. Teal is for the awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder and solidarity with sexual assault survivors. Black symbolizes the heavy hearts of those who suffer from PTSD and those who have lost loved ones to suicide because of PTSD. Red represents the blood that has been shed and the lives that have been lost.
“They called me up the day before and said they were thinking about getting the ;IGY6 patch as a tattoo,” said Cho. “At first I was like, ‘you’re just going to drop that on me the day before?’ but then I really didn’t have to think about it. It’s really meaningful for me.”
“I did six years as a first shirt and I experienced every part of this tattoo with my Airmen,” he added. “Anything we can do to get people taking about mental health and normalizing it is a step in the right direction.”
Cho said resiliency training for Pease started with Tech. Sgt. Joseph Dipalma, a crew chief with the 157th Maintenance Group, and took off after Ret. Chief Master Sgt. Kaleth O. Wright, the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, foot stomped the importance of mental health.
“The idea for the ;IGY6 movement at Pease came from Dipalma,” explained Cho. “He was part of the first resiliency team here. He really pushed for this initiative. Now, resiliency trainings are more prevalent throughout the Air Force, and we can see the stigma around mental health is definitely changing.”
The first resiliency tactical pause was held at Pease in 2019 and continues to be an annual event.
“We came to the conclusion that the main goal for the RTP is to bring people, Airmen, together,” said Roussel. “It’s about that connection. It’s the number one saver for people who are experiencing thoughts of suicide or having a hard time.”
“I got your six initiative is all about reaching out and making sure no one gets left behind,” he added. “Each part represents a piece of the bigger message. The whole point of all of this is to break down the stigma of mental health so that when people feel stuck, they can reach out for help.”
45,860 veterans commit suicide annually, according to the most recent National Veteran Suicide Prevention Report in 2021. The resiliency team is fighting to build pillars of self-awareness, mindfulness, self-care, positive relationships and purpose for all Airmen, so every wingman has the chance to continue their story.
“You matter,” said Holt. “I think that gets glossed over in the military because the mentality is usually mission first.”
“This tattoo is a permanent reminder of my commitment to my Airmen and my wingmen,” he said. “We have a mission to accomplish and a job to do, and it’s important; but people come first, mission by extension.”