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New 169th Fighter Wing Director of Psychological Health springs into action

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Mackenzie Bacalzo
  • 169th Fighter Wing/Public Affairs

During his deployment to Turkey, Rico Brown witnessed a mental health technician having to juggle multiple social service jobs for hundreds of Soldiers. “I saw the opportunity to observe and to see there was a gap. There had to be a way to contribute more,” Brown said. It was that experience that inspired Brown to switch careers and go into to the field of mental health services. Today, Brown is the South Carolina Air National Guard’s new Director of Psychological Health (DPH).

The DPH is responsible for ensuring, maintaining, and enhancing mission readiness by promoting individual, family, and community resilience through readily accessible and exceptional psychological health services.

Brown previously served 15 years in the North Carolina Air National Guard as a chaplain’s assistant for the 145th Airlift Wing. On drill weekends, he now works as a behavioral health officer for the South Carolina Army National Guard.

As DPH, Brown offers 24/7 consultation, on-site services, information and referral, and non-medical counseling to SCANG members and their families.

Having a DPH for our Airmen is a great resource after not having one since last fall, Brown said. “Our commanders are more focused on getting the mission done so having someone on-site that can give one-on-one sessions about what mental health looks like is a great intervention.”

Brown said he strives to be a source of resiliency for Team SCANG and makes continuous efforts towards making personal connections that will create a positive impact throughout the wing. “My biggest goal is to build rapport and make sure people feel safe talking to me. I want people to match my face with Rico because I want people to know I am a person just like you. Whether I’m an officer, a civilian, it doesn’t matter. I’m a person. I go through the same challenges and issues that everybody else goes through. I’m just a center-point of resources right now.”

You’ll see Brown performing regular walk-abouts on base. “It’s really just a friendly ‘Hey, how are you doing?’ so people can match a name with a face. The goal is to feel more comfortable talking about issues and challenges they are having with me so we can work on coping skills,” he said. “For me, mental health is prevention. It’s helping people see that there may be challenges and that there is a way to manage them. There is a way to stay stable on a level where you can continue to function. I want to help them stay at a place where they can continue to be who they are. Or even manage a new normal,” he said.

One of Brown’s goals is to be transparent and build a foundation of trust with those around him. “If I’m preaching counseling, therapy, and interventions for stress management, people will more likely to believe me knowing that I have been through these struggles myself,” Brown said. He also maintains an open door policy that he encourages all Airmen to use. Brown’s office is located in the 245th Air Traffic Control Squadron building, down the hall from the chaplain’s office.

Brown hopes to be a listening ear for all Airmen, supervisors, and leadership alike. He knows that no job is easy, and wishes to develop enough trust to fill the role of becoming a sounding board to spit-ball ideas with, a person to vent to, and a person to look to for support.

“No one should be on an island. When it comes to mental health, they don’t have to be a subject matter expert, they just have to know who to go to. I want to be that person for them and a safe space for trust. My door is open to every leader and every commander on this base. My hope is to provide the same confidentiality that I provide to any Airman that comes through my door. I want to be face-to-face with every commander,” he said.