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Ride Together, Fly Together — Airman 4 Life

Airman introduces himself to the Airman4Life class.

An Airman from the 718th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron introduces himself during the Airman 4 Life class at Kadena Air Base, Japan, May 10, 2021. In order to effectively convey these concepts, the A4L day is divided into three sections with emphasis on different learning objectives — instruction, team building and self-care. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Moses Taylor)

Airmen attend a block of instruction during an Airman4Life course.

Airmen from the 718th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron attend a block of instruction during the Airman 4 Life course at Kadena Air Base, Japan, May 10, 2021. During the course, Airmen introduced themselves to the class and discussed resiliency. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Moses Taylor)

A facilitator stands in front of the class and discusses resiliency strategies with the Airmen in the course.

A facilitator from the 718th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron discusses different resiliency strategies during an Airman 4 Life class at Kadena Air Base, Japan, May 10, 2021. In addition to providing coaching, team-building activities and time away from work, the A4L program also presents the opportunity to develop meaningful relationships with others. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Moses Taylor)

The facilitator of the Airman4Life course stands in front of the class and teaches the first learning block.

A facilitator from the 718th Aircraft Maintenance Squadrons teaches a block of instruction during the Airman 4 Life course at Kadena Air Base, Japan, May 10, 2021. During this course, Airmen discuss the pillars of Comprehensive Airman Fitness. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Moses Taylor)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan --

There are many great programs that benefit Airmen on Kadena; the Airman4LIFE program, implemented by the 718th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, brings members together every Friday to deliberately develop Airmen through coaching and mentoring in the social, mental, physical, spiritual and professional domains.

In order to effectively convey these concepts, the A4L day is divided into three sections with emphasis on different learning objectives.

Dividing the day into different components helps define each learning point while allowing for more natural discussions to take place, explained Tech. Sgt. Chad Gehrke, the 718th AMXS NCO in charge of Programs.

The three sections are instruction, team building and self-care.

The day begins with an instruction block that educates Airmen on how to better care for themselves and others by using the concepts of Comprehensive Airman Fitness. Next, Airmen move onto a team-building activity or physical exercise. This usually lasts about an hour and consists of activities such as bowling, kickball and various other sports.

For the last part of the day, Airmen are released from the program for a few hours of self-care. They’re encouraged to take part in any activity they feel is conducive to building resiliency.

“The most important part is that they’re not going back to work, they’re taking care of themselves,” said Senior Master Sgt. Matthew Challinor, the 718th AMXS superintendent. “They can take a step back from the mission, focus on themselves and that will make them better for their future and the mission as well.”

In addition to providing coaching, team-building activities and time away from work, the A4L program also presents the opportunity to develop meaningful relationships with others.

The program stresses the importance of building a community among the squadron, Gehrke explained. Participants come from different units, so A4L gives individuals a chance to meet people outside of their typical social circle.

“A lot of times units don’t always have the time to integrate with each other,” he said, “So this allows them to come together as a whole squadron and get to know each other a little better.”

Since the program pulls Airmen from the flightline and the mission, it was important to find a balance that would allow the program to work effectively. From this mindset, five teams were created — consisting of 20% of the AMXS. Once arranged, the teams remain the same and meet once every five weeks, allowing for participation while still ensuring readiness and productivity, Challinor explained.

“It allows us to make sure we have people where they need to be for the mission, while those other individuals are taking advantage of their Airmen4Life day,” Gehrke said.

While A4L provides a safe space for Airmen to grow and develop as professionals and people, it also represents a change in Air Force culture. Challinor and Gehrke see it as a step toward a more involved Air Force as they feel this program focuses on the individual Airman more than ever before.

“Our goal is to help change the culture in maintenance. I want that change, not just for our own people, but for the whole Air Force,” Gehrke said. “We’re trying to take care of our people more than we have in the past. I know it’s hard to quantify, but it’s a goal I’d love to see.”