Meyer "Mike" Moldeven

Civil Service, Parachute Rigger, Hickam AFB, Hawaii, WWII & Parachute Acquisition, Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio, Korea & Logistical Analyst, Nouasseur AB, Morocco, Cold War & Civilian Deputy, Inspector General's Office, McClellan AFB, Vietnam

Memoirs: Military Logistics - World War Two and The Cold War

1941 - 1990


Meyer Moldeven

July 2002

Comments are welcome. Please e-mail them to:



Memoir: Parachute Rigger: World War Two: Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. 1941-1948

Memoir: Parachute Acquisition: Procuring parachutes quickly to meet the U S Air Forces urgent needs for the Korean War. Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. 1950

Memoir: Logistics Planning; North Africa: Nouasseur Air Base, Morocco. Contingency planning for a third world war. 1953-1956

Memoir: Fixing Production Mistakes: A checklist-style management aid prepared for the U. S. Small Business Administration's SCORE Program. 1979

Memoir: Supervisory Audit in the Workplace: A process based on my work as senior analyst on the staff of an Inspector General at a U. S. Air Force logistics depot. The article was first published in 'National Development', a journal for executives in developing nations. 1981

Memoir: Suicide Prevention in the U. S. Armed Forces; 1970s and afterwards, McClellan AFB, California. 'Hotline' volunteer during 'Viet Nam' and hassling the bureaucracy afterward.


Logistics- (military definition) The science of planning and carrying out the movement and maintenance of forces.... those aspects of military operations that deal with the design and development, acquisition, storage, movement, distribution, maintenance, evacuation and disposition of material; movement, evacuation, and hospitalization of personnel; acquisition of construction, maintenance, operation and disposition of facilities; and acquisition of furnishing of services.

(Joint Chiefs of Staff Pub 1-02 excerpt)

Memoir: Parachute Rigger: World War Two: Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii; 1942-1948

   In the early 1990s, I was one of several addressees on an email from students at a middle school in a northeastern state. They wrote that they were working on a class project about American involvement in World War II and invited memoirs from older Americans who had lived through those times. They wanted to learn directly from those who had served in the nation’s wartime Armed Forces and Merchant Marine, as well as from civilians on the home front who had produced, serviced, and transported weapons and supplies from where they were made to where the battles were fought. They wanted to hear from people who cared for the wounded and helped in other ways.

   They said that they had received several responses but wanted more. The teacher added that the memoirs had generated interest and questions among her students; a healthy Q&A. At the project’s conclusion, the teacher reported to the contributing participants that the project had been a success: the students had absorbed history from those who had lived the events. The contributers, many long retired, had an audience for reminiscences which might not otherwise have surfaced. They had benefited from the process along with the students; they had built bridges from the 1940s to the 1990s and, in doing so, had contributed to the historical records of an important era in American history. The experience enhanced communications and respect across generations.


   I wrote to the students about my work as a parachute rigger in the war. To set the stage, I described the parachute’s purpose: to lower a weight, that is, a person or a cargo, slowly and safely from a place in the sky to a place on the ground. In time of war, the one-way trip down might be air crews who were forced to abandon their airplanes because the craft could no longer remain airborne. During World War II, hundreds of thousands of airborne soldiers parachuted from transport aircraft with their weapons as part of military operations. At least equal in numbers, cargo parachutes lowered food, weapons, and other essential supplies and equipment to the fighting forces and to isolated civilian communities. Parachutes also have a wide range of uses in peacetime, for instance, emergency escapes from disabled aircraft and other airborne systems, to slow an aircraft on the runway after a high-speed landing, sport parachuting, "fire jumpers" in fighting forest fires, rescues in terrain that lacks easier access, and more.

   Parachutes must work the first time; there are no second chances.


   In September 1941 I was a civilian parachute rigger for the Air Service Command at Patterson Field, near Dayton, Ohio. My job was to repair and service-pack man-carrying and cargo parachutes for United States Army Air Corps flying personnel, Army parachute troops in training, and American and friendly foreign nations’ special operations in which the United States was involved in various parts of the world.

   The months from September through November of 1941 were busy times for our shop. The conflict raged across Europe and on battle fronts in Asia and Africa. The United States Armed Forces accelerated their training programs, and Americans were active in the war zones of other nations. The parachute shop in which I worked, as in most other industrial areas at Patterson Field, and dozens of other bases throughout the United States, was on a round-the-clock seven-day work week.

   Damaged man-carrying and cargo parachutes were brought to our shop in large quantities from United States training bases and overseas theaters of operations. Often, the parachute harnesses, which are wrapped around the jumpers to lower them safely, were shredded, canopies were ripped, and canopy containers and emergency survival attachments were scorched and gory. I was in a crew that fixed man-carrying parachutes, and then drop-tested a dozen or so that were randomly selected by the shop foreman from each two or three hundred that had been given a major repair and packed for service.

   The test consisted of attaching a service-packed parachute to a 120-pound weight or canvas-covered dummy, loading the weights or dummies into a C-47 airplane, and connecting a metal hook at one end of a 30-foot lanyard to the parachute rip cord and the other end to a cable stretched tightly above the airplane door. The door was lashed open. Each of the two men on the test crew wore a parachute and they were also secured to the airplane frame by a short heavy belt so that they would not accidentally fall from the aircraft.

   The pilot took off and circled the field at about a thousand feet. Approaching the drop zone, the co-pilot flashed a warning light above the door where the parachute handlers were stationed. At the next signal, the handlers, one on each side of the dummy, heaved it out. The lanyard, when fully extended, pulled the rip cord, and the canopy extended, opened, inflated, and descended. The ground crew tracked the drifting parachute, guessing at where it would most likely touch ground.

   Ground crew work is not dull. I remember how we would spread out, and watch the dummy as it fell; there were times we had to move fast to get out of the way. As soon as we knew where the parachute would land, we'd run toward it and, as soon as we got to where it was, haul in one of the webbing straps to spill air from the canopy, and get it all together with the least possible damage to the parachute and to ourselves.

   There were times, even on a relatively calm day, when a gust would pass across the field and inflate the canopy before we got to it. A partially inflated canopy in a gentle breeze can drag a heavy dummy and parachute along the ground faster than ground handlers can run.

   I'll always remember chasing a parachute and its dummy that a sudden gust dragged, rolled, twisted, and bounced along in a field we were using for the drop zone. Finally, with a lunge, I landed on the dummy, wrapped both legs around it, and grasped and hauled back one of the straps. I managed to spill enough air to deflate the canopy. Controlling a dummy that is being tossed around by a sudden gust can be like riding a spirited pony.

   Back at the shop after the tests, we inspected every part of the parachute closely to see how well it had been repaired. At one time, apprentice parachute riggers were not certified until they jump-tested a parachute that they, themselves, had inspected, repaired and packed. Jump certification by riggers was suspended because of the enormously increased workload.


   On Sunday, December 7, 1941, I was working the night shift in the Parachute Shop. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that morning was being reported on the radio in almost continuous news flashes. About an hour after the work shift began, our supervisor instructed all male parachute riggers to go immediately to the aircraft maintenance main hangar nearby. Several hundred men from aircraft and instrument repair shops, and other shops on the air base, were already there. They were milling about; I joined them and wondered why we had been called together.

   A military officer climbed to the platform at the top of an aircraft maintenance stand. Drawing attention by rapping on the stand’s railing with a metal object, he told us that the Air Corps needed skilled workers and supervisors immediately at Hickam Field in Hawaii. Whoever wanted to go, he said, should raise his arm and his name would be placed on a list.

   I happened to be single, footloose and fancy-free at the time, and my arm got caught in the updraft. We were told to stand by, and the others instructed to return to their shops. Those of us who stayed lined up, and our names, badge numbers, and job titles were entered on a list. Each of us was given an instruction sheet.

   The next morning, following the instructions, I reported to the dispensary for vaccinations and immunization shots in both arms, and then to the Personnel Office to sign papers that came at me from all directions. I had a week to get my affairs in order; after that I would be on stand-by for departure. A week later, along with several hundred other volunteer workers, I boarded a train on a siding next to a warehouse, and was on my way west.

   The train, with all windows covered by blackout curtains, left Patterson Field, Dayton, Ohio, in the dead of night, and arrived three days later at Moffett Field near Mountain View, California. Disembarked, we lined up for bedrolls, and were pointed toward rows of tents in a muddy field adjacent a dirigible hangar. An instruction sheet, tacked to the tent’s center pole, told us where the mess halls were located, and the meals schedule by tent number.

   More trains arrived the next day and the day following. Hundreds of civilian workers joined us in the tents waiting for the next leg of our journey. We quickly got to know each other; we had come from all across the country: New York and Pennsylvania, Ohio and Georgia, Alabama and Texas, Utah and California. The Air Corps bases at which we had signed up were Griffis and Olmstead, Patterson and Robbins, Brookley and Kelly, and Hill and McClellan. We were the vanguard, ready to move out with little or no advance notice.

   Except for a carry-on bag, with a change of clothing and personal items, our luggage had gone directly into the ship’s hold.

   Days passed. The "alert" came one night at 2 AM. Voices shouted along the lines of tents, "This is it, you guys. Movin’ out. One hour."

   In a torrential downpour, we slogged through ankle-deep mud and climbed into the backs of canvas covered trucks. Flaps down, escorted by armed military guards in Jeeps, all of the trucks were blacked out except for dim lights gleaming through slits in their headlights. We formed up as a miles-long convoy rolling north along U.S. 101 from Moffett Field, and arrived, shortly before dawn, at Fort Mason, adjacent Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. The trucks filled the pier from end to end; a gangway led up to the deck of a ship alongside. We learned later that she was the U.S. Grant, a World War I troop transport.

   Herded below deck, we jammed into compartments where the narrow bunks were five high along aisles barely wide enough for passing. A "Now, here this...." over the loudspeaker restricted all passengers to their compartments, and to passageways only when necessary, until we were out of the harbor. We were to have our life preservers with us at all times.

   Hours later, the ship’s vibration, a back-and-forth shifting in my center of gravity, and creaking along the bulkheads, told me we were under way. Scuttlebutt was that we were in a convoy, escorted by destroyers. Enemy submarines were suspected to be in the area.

   We took turns, by compartment number, going on deck. On our way to Honolulu, the convoy zigzagged frequently to minimize the success of an enemy air or submarine attack. Finally, on the fifth day, land appeared on the horizon and, shortly afterward, we saw Diamond Head. Our ship left the convoy and entered Honolulu harbor.

   We docked and disembarked, under heavy military guard, at the Aloha Tower pier and boarded the Toonerville Trolley, as we got to know the train on Oahu’s narrow gage railway. An hour later, we were at Hickam Field.

   The devastation was appalling. Burned-out hulks of bombed aircraft were scattered about on parking aprons, and huge accumulations of debris lay next to aircraft hangars and along the roadways. The roofs of military barracks hung down along the outsides of the structures; they had exploded up and outward over the walls.

   As a senior technician, I was assigned to the recovery and repair of damaged parachutes, life rafts, inflatable life preservers, oxygen masks, and the escape-and-evasion kits that air crews relied on when they bailed out over enemy territory. All of the equipment that came to our shop was closely inspected, repaired, if possible, and, when the standards called for it, tested. As soon as survival gear was fixed and ready for service, they were returned to the airplane from which they came, or shipped to air bases in the battle zones.

   Many of us joined Hickam Field’s armed civilians, officially titled the Hawaiian Air Depot Volunteer Corps. We were a group of employees who, during non-duty hours, trained to handle and fire a rifle and a pistol, and guarded locations at night where high security was needed. We were armed with '03 Enfield rifles and, at night, patrolled aircraft maintenance hangers, warehouses, instrument repair shops, and an engine repair line underground at Wheeler Field, near Wahiawa in the Oahu highlands.

   As armed civilians, we were each given a card to carry in our wallets. The card stated, in fine print, that if captured by the enemy while carrying a weapon, we were entitled to claim rights as a "prisoner of war." The Army Air Corps military officer who commanded our unit said that, since we did not wear military uniforms, nor carry military identification tags, the card would certify us as "combatants". The statement on the card was supposed to keep us from being shot as spies in the event the Hawaiian Islands were invaded by the enemy.

   During the war years, I fixed and packed thousands of man-carrying and cargo parachutes, and serviced many other types of life-saving and survival gear.

   After the war, my job was changed. I investigated defects that had been made during manufacture or repair in all types of equipment. My job was to examine what was wrong, and talk to mechanics and anybody who knew how and why it happened. After collecting the information, I wrote reports that described what was wrong so that specialists and engineers, who were thousands of miles distant, would understand the problem and solve it.

   I worked at Hickam Field until April, 1948, and then returned to the place where I had signed up when the war began. By then, the base had grown enormously, and was named Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

   Any questions?

   The students e-mailed their questions to me, and I replied, also by e-mail. An example:

   Q. How did you get from fixing parachutes to writing reports about mistakes and defects?

   A. I’m not certain about this, but I think my change in jobs came about because of what happened when I worked with parachutes and survival gear. It began in 1942, when large numbers of damaged parachutes were shipped from the Mainland to Hickam Field and other Air Corps bases in the Pacific. The parachutes had ripped and mildewed canopies, badly frayed suspension lines, rusted metal connectors, and the straps that secured the air crew person in place, were so rotten that they came apart in our hands. Other types of survival gear that came to us from the Mainland had defects, too: life rafts and life preservers did not inflate the way they should, escape-and-evasion kits were damaged, and items that were important to survival were missing.

   Before 1942, parachute canopies were made of silk or cotton cloth, and the harnesses, in which the parachutist is encased, were made of cotton webbing. Both silk and cotton are organic materials which can be seriously weakened when attacked by fungus and dampness. That’s what had happened to the gear we were getting, much of it recently shipped. Often, the equipment was unsafe, and could not be fixed.

   I complained to my supervisor about the quality of the parachutes and survival gear that we were getting from the Mainland, and he passed my complaints along to his supervisor. He told me to put my complaints in writing. I wrote reports that described the damage, and included photographs. The poor quality of the life-saving gear that had been sent to us, I wrote, added to the risk of an emergency bailout from a disabled airplane.

   At work one day, I was called to my supervisor’s office.

   "Just got a phone call from the front office," he said. "You’re to report immediately to Headquarters, Seventh Air Force. The soldier in the Jeep outside is waiting for you. He’ll drive you there. Move."

   Sitting alongside the driver, I wondered what it was all about. The thought that I had made an error in my work made me nervous. Was I being called on the carpet because an injury, or worse, had happened, resulting from an improperly packed parachute?

   At Seventh Air Force headquarters, I was met at the door by a Colonel, who cleared me past the security guards. I followed him into an office that had a sign on the door that read "Major General White, Commander, Seventh Air Force". Several men in uniform were standing near a desk at the far side of the room. A uniformed officer was seated behind the desk. In the middle of the room lay several packed parachutes in a heap.

   The officer behind the desk, stood, came around, walked to and crouched next to the parachutes. He motioned me to get down beside him. On each of his shoulder tabs he wore a Major General’s two stars.

   "OK, son," he said, "show me the problem."

   My reports had received attention.

   I stared at the parachutes. Did any among them include the damage I had reported? I examined the inspection log attached to each parachute. The dates stamped in the logs showed that the parachutes had been recently inspected and packed at a stateside Air Corps base.

   I stood, bent forward over one of the parachutes, and grasped one of its four straps; the strap is known as a "riser", and it connects the jumper to the canopy. The life of the jumper would depend on the strength of that riser.

   Jerking the riser straight up as hard as I could, I shook it repeatedly against the twenty-five pound weight of the packed parachute. The sudden yanks and shakings were only a tiny fraction of the shocks that the riser would get when the parachute’s canopy snapped open.

  The cords, of which the riser was made, separated, and several cords were shredded. Here was another case where dampness and rotting had weakened an emergency man-carrying parachute into dangerous uselessness. Yet, the parachute had been tagged as "serviceable".

   The General stared at the shredded strap and then, at me. He said, "Thanks, son." The Colonel, who had escorted me to the General’s office, motioned to me and pointed at the door.

   As I left, I heard the General say, "I want a personal message on this from me to Hap Arnold". General Arnold was the Commander of the Army Air Corps worldwide during World War II, and reported to the President of the United States.

   I returned to my job. The quality of parachutes and other survival gear that arrived at Hickam Field from the Mainland quickly improved.

   Serious manufacturing defects and servicing mistakes were also found in other kinds of equipment used by the Army Air Corps in the field. When the fighting part of the war was over, I was assigned to a work group that collected information about what was wrong with the equipment, and to write reports that went to engineers and managers who would do what was necessary to get the problems fixed.

   In later years (1970s) I wrote two articles: (1) preventing and fixing mistakes in Air Force equipment and (2) supervisory audits of industrial shop equipment at the work unit level (first line supervisor). The first article was published in 1979 by the Small Business Administration as a "Management Aid to Small Manufacturers" and the second was published in National Development, a journal distributed worldwide to executives in developing nations. Both are included in this series of memoirs under the titles 'Fixing Production Mistakes' and 'Supervisory Audit in the Work Unit.'

Memoir: Priority Acquisition of Parachutes for the Korean War 1950

   This memoir recounts a decision I made at the outbreak of the Korean War and its context. The issue was the high priority for acquisition of 50,000 aircrew emergency bailout parachutes for United States Air Force-NATO operations in Korea. Chronology and types of USAF aircraft operating in the Korean Theater at the time are based on personal recollections and references available from public libraries and the Internet. Opinions are those of the writer and not necessarily those of military or civilian personnel of the United States Air Force or the Department of Defense.

   The technical design and operation of military man-carrying parachutes evolved rapidly after World War II, as did parachute servicing, packing and maintenance methodologies. The Korean War, five years after the end of WW II, began generally with WWII weapons and equipment, much of it overage and obsolescent. Where significant shortages of vital equipment existed or were otherwise considered certain to occur, urgent procurements were initiated, taking into account manufacture 'lead time' and supply and maintenance pipelines to the troops.


   Rather than procure the 50,000 man-carrying parachutes as complete assemblies, e.g., in which the canopy's suspension lines are permanently linked to the harness and, through the harness, to the canopy container (pack), as in the past, the procurement I initiated in 1950 was by major components. The components would subsequently be assembled into standard types of complete parachutes by certified technicians at Air Force Materiel Command supply and maintenance depots or certified parachute maintenance shops to meet priority needs in Korea and other support activities.


   In 1949, the Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson cut back radically the Armed Forces' programs for weapons and support systems. The Korean War, in which the U S S R and Communist China openly supported and militarily joined North Korea against the United Nations, was launched the following year.

   In the early '50s, Hqs AFMC had Command jurisdiction of 8 major industrial depots and at least an equal number of sub-depots and special activities throughout the continental U S and in foreign countries (Europe, Philippines, Japan, Middle East, North Africa, etc.)

   For several years following the end of WWII and creation of a separate U. S. Air Force the logistical missions, organizations, and personnel policies for active duty military and civil service personnel experienced important changes in their management, location, and performance of functions. The changes were reflected in chain of command, consolidation and/or wholesale reassignment of materiel property classes, Hqs components and field organizations, transferring or eliminating low priority workloads and assuming new missions and industrial workloads. Concurrently, the worldwide Cold War and its effects steadily increased in scope and intensity throughout Europe, Africa, and the Far East. Widespread and ongoing post-WW2 reductions-in-force among military and civil service personnel accompanied a nationwide conversion from war to civilian economies.

   In 1950, shortly before US military action in Korea (see June 30, 1950 under Time Line), I was assigned to supervise several supply technicians. The primary function of my group was to determine USAF worldwide requirements and distribution for emergency survival equipment which included parachutes, aircrew emergency life preservers, emergency survival kits and their components, and other aircrew personal emergency gear for USAF-worldwide.

   Parachutes in the possession of USAF field commands and in back-up supply warehouses at that time had been procured for WWII, which had ended 5 years previously. An unknown quantity of parachutes in warehouse storage had been declared excess to requirements or were close to their maximum authorized 'years in service since dates of manufacture' (the date of manufacture was stamped on the canopy). At the 'maximum' age of 7 years, personnel parachutes were, by USAF regulation, to be removed from further service for aircrew emergency bailout, although they could be used for cargo drops.

   Computing quantities of serviceable parachutes and spare parts to be on hand for the USAF active and programmed aircraft inventory was made by type of parachute, e.g., seat, back or chest as applicable to aircraft types. Parachute selection depended on crewmember or passenger stations in the aircraft, space available in cockpit and cabin, access to and through emergency exits, and the aircrew member's weight, e.g., aircrew or passengers above a certain total weight (body weight plus flight clothing, emergency kit, flotation gear and the parachute) were entitled to a parachute that incorporated a larger diameter canopy.

   Based on type of aircraft and aircrew stations (or special circumstances) the harness of a 'quick attachable chest chute' (QAC) might be the choice and the canopy pack hooked on to the harness before bailout.

   Requirement computations for parachutes took into account quantities in service by type (back, seat, and chest), in the pipeline, and in back-up warehouse storage (serviceable and repairable). Information on quantity and condition of parachutes in storage was not reliable in the years immediately following the end of WWII.

   Translating a requirement into acquisition called for justifying funds, ensuring that procurement and manufacturing specifications and tech data were current, and initiating and monitoring acquisition documents. New production parachutes from a commercial source received an acceptance inspection before being shipped to a USAF regional or property class depot or directly to the base supply activity where the requirement existed. There, the parachutes was scheduled to the base parachute shop (part of the Maintenance function) where it received an Air Force directed technical inspection, aired, pre-pack scrutiny, packed for service, a post- pack inspection, and returned to 'Supply' to complete the requisitioning transaction.

   USAF parachutes procured from a commercial contractor (manufacturer) are normally shipped unpacked (that is, with the canopy rolled up loosely in the canopy container (pack) and the 4 webbing harness risers permanently connected to the canopy suspension lines by 4 stainless steel links; six suspension (shroud) lines tied and permanently stitched to each link. When suspension lines and harness webbing are so stitched, undoing the stitches weakens reliability at vital points; damaged suspension lines and harnesses must be replaced.

   Upon requisition for a 'packed-for-service' parachute the Supply warehouse sends the (unpacked) parachute to a base maintenance parachute shop where it is inspected to ensure that all required parts are on hand and free from damage and defects, and current with latest technical and modification instructions. Normally, the parachute canopy is aired for at least 24 hours in a parachute loft, re-inspected by the certified rigger who will personally pack it for service. A security breakaway-thread and lead seal is pressed over a knot where the forward ripcord pin passes through its pack-closure-retaining cone.

   The servicing and packing log, which is marked with the same USAF serial number as the parachute pack and canopy, is signed by the rigger and inserted in a pocket on the pack assembly. The packed parachute is inspected externally by a certified inspector and/or supervisor and returned to supply as 'ready for service.' During WWII and on into the '50s USAF military and civil service certified parachute riggers accomplished these procedures.

Time Line

The following events on the Korean War time line had logistics implications.

-- 1948 April 8 - US troops ordered withdrawn from Korea on orders from President Harry S. Truman.

-- 1949 June 29 - Last US troops withdrawn from South Korea.

-- 1950 June 30 - President Truman orders US ground forces into Korea and authorizes the bombing of North Korea by the US Air Force. US troops are notified of their deployment to South Korea.

   I recall that the morning following President Truman's order to the Armed Forces to initiate military action in Korea the military chief of the Hqs AFMC Equipment Division, Directorate of Supply, strode along the 'supervisors' row in the office where I worked. He was accompanied by my Branch Chief who was responsible for specified categories of military equipment and supplies, including those assigned to me. Pointing to each supervisor (or desk if it was unattended at the moment) the Division Chief briefly consulted with the Branch Chief, then read off a dollar amount from a spreadsheet he held in his hand. The dollar amount for my area of responsibility was $25 million, as a starter.

   Immediately upon the Division Chief's departure, the Branch Chief assembled his subordinate supervisors and directed that the $-amounts cited were mandatory totals for Purchase Requests (PRs) from each to be his office at the start of business the following day. He would review them and, upon his approval, have them hand-carried to the Division office. The PRs were to be for most urgently needed equipment and supplies to support current and 'programmed' USAF operations in Korea.


   My highest priorities for USAF in Korea were aircrew parachutes, aircraft emergency life preservers, aircrew emergency bailout survival kits (attached to parachute harnesses), oxygen masks, and components ('components,' for instance, took into account that inflatable life preservers are not much help to an aircrew member floating in the sea if the CO2 inflation cartridges had not been checked and installed or had been discharged for an unauthorized purpose. Life vest checklists directed that inflatable life vests would be examined by the wearer or a technician before donning to ensure that the neoprene inner bladders, mouth inflation tube connections, and inflation CO2 cartridges and levers were intact. It was not unusual to find that the CO2 cartridges were missing or the cartridge seals punctured.

   Insofar as parachutes were concerned, 'components' included replacements for damaged ripcords (pins bent, cable kinked), pilot chutes, harnesses, canopy containers (packs), attached emergency kits, etc.

   As US-UNCommnd forces in Korea intensified combat operations, the urgent need for parachutes, aircraft life preservers and other survival and escape-and-evasion gear increased. The United Nations Command (UNC) included the United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa, Belgium, Greece, Canada and Thailand and other nations.

   USAF aircraft in the Korean Theater included the P-51, F-80, F-82, F-86, B-29, KC-50, C-46, C-47, C-54, C-82, C-118, C-119 and C-121 and more.

   The F-51 (Mustang) role in Korea was ground attack. The F-80 (Shooting Star) was the first operational American jet fighter and a major weapon system of the Korean War. The F-80 recorded the first USAF aerial victories in June 1950. The F-80's high accident rate in the early years of the war was attributed to pilots familiar with propeller-driven aircraft transitioning to the faster and more powerful jets. The F-80 was used for ground support after it was replaced by the F-86 in air superiority tactics. In effect, the USAF was experiencing a major transition from relatively slow propeller-driven to much higher speed jet aircraft - in the middle of an intense air war. The transformation involved upgrade training for jet aircraft air and ground crews, line and support shops technicians were in practically OJT (on the job training), revamping test and maintenance facilities, acquiring and shipping maintenance new tools and equipment, skills, procedures, tech data, etc. Among these drastic and far-reaching changes, parachute compatibility with aircraft was one among thousands.

   The F-86 jet had entered service in 1949, about one year before the start of the Korean War. Hundreds of F-86s and other aircraft, as well as aircraft support and personal equipment were provided to allied nations under the Mutual Defense Assistance Program (MDAP).

   The total additional quantity required for USAF's immediate needs in Korea and for other developing or programmed USAF operations worldwide was 50,000 parachutes plus spare parts. The U S was well along in its conversion and retooling to a civilian economy that would concentrate on meeting the pent-up needs of the populace. A one-shot relatively short-duration production program for a distant 'police action' did not represent a sound investment to industry.

   Considering the time required by prime contractors to reactivate (actually to recreate) product lines, install manufacturing equipment plus acquisition of materials, parachute hardware, manufacturing tools and skills; acquire components through outsource or in-house-manufacture, and lead time to integrate production and assembly, and ship complete parachutes, etc., was much too long. It got down to how many of each type parachute (seat, back or chest) was most urgently needed, and how could we get the right types and number of parachutes to where they had to be. What was the mix of parachute types to be procured commercially, checked through the USAF internal quality assurance process, and shipped (packed or unpacked based on circumstances) to meet Korean Theater needs in a combat environment and rapid changes in the Theater's types of aircraft?

   A 'complete' parachute, as procured during WWII consisted of all of its components assembled and permanently connected to each other, except for the pilot parachute, ripcord, and 6 bungee/hook assemblies, all of which were installed by the rigger during the pack-for-service process. When the shroud lines, canopy and pilot 'chute are folded into the 'pack' (container) and the flaps brought up from the sides and over to enclose the canopy, the ripcord pins inserted through holes in the cones brought up through grommets.

   The bungee (elastic) cords are hooked to eyes along the packs frame so that they snap the flaps back when the ripcord is pulled to clear the way for the pilot 'chute to eject and draw the main canopy out to full extension. The ripcord cable is run a sleeve of which one end ferrule is fastened to the harness webbing and the other end to the pack side flap in line with the canopy release cones. When the ripcord is pulled, the direction of its withdrawal is from the canopy pack across the wearer's chest.

   Based on my experience in parachute maintenance in the Pacific during WWII and consultations on this procurement action with Hqs AFMC maintenance professionals, Wright Air Development Center parachute engineers and Aero-Medical Laboratory survival specialists, I concluded the best approach would be for several contractors to provide USAF with canopies, harnesses and packs, separately. Small items such as ripcords, pilot chutes, bungees, etc., could be procured independently from qualified sources. The AFMC depot and/or operating wing's Supply function and Maintenance certified parachute riggers would take it from there and connect the canopies to the right harnesses and packs for the job, pack for service, and get the parachutes to where they were needed.

   I initiated the Purchase Requests, and received quick coordination on technical accuracy of procurement data from the parachute engineers and Maintenance technical services. The Purchase Requests, to my knowledge, were approved by the oversight authorities.

   Some time later, I was criticized by top management for my initiatives and notified (informally) that an 'action' might be taken. As it turned out, I was 'transferred' to the Hqs AFMC Directorate of Maintenance to review draft Air Force specifications for 'maintainability' on new types of survival equipment for which procurement was planned, to analyze deficiencies reported from the field on aircrew personal emergency gear, and to write field maintenance manuals and technical orders.

   About a year or so after my transfer from the Directorate of Supply the employee who took my former job told me, in the presence of my former staff, that my 'decision' for parachute procurement had been 'right.' I didn't ask for details.

Memoir: Cold War Planning: North Africa 1953-1956

   The Cold War between the United States and the former USSR began in the mid-1940s and extended over the following half-century until the Soviet Union dissolved in the early 1990s. The Cold War’s cost to the United States exceeded $8 trillion. More than 110,000 American military lives were lost on foreign soil in the major military conflicts of that era: Korea in the early 1950s and Viet Nam from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s. Military personnel and civilians killed and wounded on both sides in those two wars and in other Cold War clashes between the US and the USSR and their allies, have been estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands.


   In 1953 I was invited by the Headquarters, Air Force Logistics Command, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio to join the logistics planning cadre at Nouasseur Air Base, about 20 miles southwest of Casablanca in what was then French Morocco. The U. S. Air Force was in the early stage of establishing the Nouasseur Air Depot, a component of the Air Materiel Force, European Area (AMFEA) headquartered in Weisbaden, Germany.

   The Nouasseur Air Depot was being built and staffed to serve as one of three major USAF-NATO logistics centers in the European-Med-North African-Middle East theater in the event of war with the USSR. Each center managed an industrial depot serving a primary geographic area. The depot's mission was to accomplish acquisition and distribution of supplies, repair and maintenance of aircraft and equipment, field support in its assigned geographic area, and to implement specified Military Assistance Programs.

   In addition to Nouasseur, the Burtonwood Air Depot, near Manchester UK, would support air forces in the UK and European Northern Tier countries. The Chatereaux Air Depot in Chatereaux, France, about half way between Paris and Marseilles, would support the Central Tier which extended beyond the Northern Tier to the Mediterranean coast (overlapping somewhat with Nouasseur in Spain, Portugal, Greece, and Turkey). Nouasseur (Casablanca) had the Southern Tier, which included North Africa and on into the Middle East and countries along and in the Med and areas which were not within the Northern and Central Tiers.

   As a Logistics Planner at Nouasseur, one of my projects was to prepare an element of U S Air Force Europe (USAFE) logistics plans to support the U S Strategic Air Command (SAC). The plan would organize, staff, equip, transport, test and evaluate, and (in the event of war) activate and deploy Mobile Maintenance Teams consisting of U S civil service volunteers. The teams would provide on-site vital repairs at forward-area landing strips to battle-damaged USAF-NATO aircraft sufficient for them to continue flights returning from missions.

   Strategic Air Command bombers and their direct support aircraft in the active and near-future inventory during the early-1950s included the B-47 Stratojet, a six-engine 4,000 mile range medium bomber which entered service in 1950; earliest versions of the B-52 Stratofortress, an eight-engine 8,000+ mile range heavy bomber scheduled to enter operations about 1955, and the C-97 Stratofreighter cargo and tanker versions with four piston-driven engines which had been in SAC fleet operations since about 1950; also late models B-50 and some older B-29s from World War Two.


   During the period covered by this memoir, the probability of a worldwide nuclear conflagration, sparked by a Cold War incident between US-NATO and the USSR, was considered to be high. The memory of World War Two was fresh in everyone’s minds, and the U S confrontation with the USSR that brought on the Berlin Airlift, and its implications for the future, were, to many people, of the gravest portent. The Korean "police action," another outgrowth of stresses in the relationships between the USSR, Communist China and the U S, was winding down. "Viet Nam" was on the horizon.

   During much of the half century of the post-World War Two - Cold War era the US depended almost entirely on its own economic, military, industrial and human resources to defend NATO and its own far-flung lines. The international competition for country and regional security, resources to rebuild a devastated Europe, and control and administration of occupied territories created a massive arms race that affected the lives and destinies of people everywhere.

   In the late-40s/early-50s the US-USSR conflicts in interests were at a critical stage. Intercontinental nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles were far past the drawing board phases, their operational capabilities and effects in war had been carefully estimated and were understood.

   The US doubled the number of its Air Force groups to ninety-five, and placed great importance on the Strategic Air Command (SAC). The number of SAC wings increased from 21 in 1950 to 37 in 1952. The growth of SAC air power arrayed US military capabilities and strategies to such concepts as massive retaliation and Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) by NATO should the USSR launch a pre-emptive attack in Europe.

   American and NATO planners admitted, however, that neither massive retaliation nor MAD, by themselves, would stop a Soviet first strike and an invasion into Eastern and Central Europe and the Middle East. The USSR could count on huge reserves of its still young, combat-seasoned men under arms, pre-positioned war materiel still in prime combat condition, and relatively short lines of transport and communications.

   I have no specific information that would verify the following segment on international negotiations other than publicly accessible media. Obviously, NATO and the US had to counter the potential of Soviet military offensive and defensive resources and capabilities during the early ‘50s -- less than a decade since the close of World War Two, and the US and its allies, Communist China, the USSR, and Korea already in a war on the Korean peninsula.

   Operational ICBMs were still several years in the future. The B-52 bomber, itself, was still in the early stages of production and deployment. Strategic warfare against Soviet oil drilling, refining, storage, and pipeline facilities in the southwest USSR (Caspian Sea area) were expected to slow Soviet military momentum. For this and other reasons, and to support planned military operations throughout the Balkan, Middle East and Mediterranean, the US expanded and modernized its existing facilities to conduct air operations over the USSR southwestern regions.

   NATO and the US built or otherwise secured ground, seaport, and air bases and/or implemented joint-use agreements with governments in the Mediterranean area in the event of a NATO-USSR conflict and, specifically relevant to this memoir, in Morocco, Libya, Turkey, and the Central and Eastern Mediterranean generally.


   In the early 1950s, SAC was the major tenant on military airfields in Morocco: Ben Guerir and Sidi Slimane Air Bases in central Morocco, and Nouasseur Air Base in the desert about 25 kilometers south of the Morocco’s dominant port Casablanca. Morocco had been a French protectorate since 1912, and thousands of French citizens and other Europeans had migrated to French and Spanish Morocco over the years and taken up residency. Large numbers of Moroccan, French and other European nationals were employed by the USAF at its bases and the US Navy’s tenancy in Port Lyauty, and at other military installations where the U S and/or NATO had been granted French/Moroccan permission to do so.

   Throughout the French occupation of Morocco a number of Moroccan nationalist groups formed in opposition to French domination, and they engaged increasingly in nationalist political and guerrilla resistance, including occasional bombings and other acts of violence. Sultan Mohammed V sided with the nationalists and was deposed in 1953. This further angered the Moroccan populace and in-country violence increased.

   The Sultan returned from exile in 1955 and Morocco gained its independence some years later. Many French and Spanish citizens returned to their countries of origin. French military forces, business enterprises, and employment for the indigenous population in Morocco became uncertain, and so did the American military presence on Moroccan territory.

   In the years that followed, the Libyan government also changed rulers, with the results that American use of Wheelus Field, for any purpose, was revoked. Nevertheless, context and circumstances in North Africa aside, USAF planning for support to SAC operations under general war conditions, and for a variety of military contingencies, continued; in its way, North Africa all along the Med, would likely experience a deja vu of its World War Two experiences, but, caught in a nuclear exchange, probably worse.

   (In World War Two, oil refineries, such as those in the Romanian Ploesti fields, were important but extremely costly targets. For instance, in one mission, of the 178 B-24s dispatched to bomb Ploesti, 52 were lost, and all but 35 aircraft suffered damage, one limping home after 14 hours and holed in 365 places. These Allied bombing missions originated in and returned to airfields in North Africa; many of the old landing strips, fuel storage, and maintenance shops previously used by German and Italian military occupiers and then by the Allies, were in poor condition, but they were there.)

Importance of the Caspian Oil Refineries

   Assume that, a US/NATO war with the Soviet Union would include strategic air attacks against Soviet oil wells, refineries and other industrial plants, storage facilities, and transport nets. If so, USSR facilities in the southwest USSR (the Caspian Sea area) would have been among the high priority targets.

   That being so, planning for US/NATO aircraft to return from bombing runs over southwest USSR included the option to select routes over-flying Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Crete, Greece, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Israel, Egypt, and other countries throughout the Middle East, across and along the north and south coasts of the Mediterranean.

The Gap

   It was expected that among returning aircraft there would be those which had incurred severe battle damage. Battle-damaged, or marginally or entirely non-operational in flight for other reasons, the air crews needed to be helped. Unable to remain airborne to reach an organized repair facility or any location where the airplane could be fixed sufficiently for continued flight that would get the air crew to safety, the airplane "fixer" had to "reach out" to the airplane and the air crew.

   One option, to be implemented immediately upon USAFE, SAC, or NATO notice, was to deploy "rapid area maintenance teams" comprised of U S civil service employees, along with their tool kits and air-transportable mobile power generators, to designated locations along the SAC aircraft return routes where battle-damaged aircraft could be quickly fixed and serviced sufficiently to take off and keep going west, if not all the way, then at least to another location where another quick-fix and service could be rendered so as to extend the flight another step in the right direction. Repairs would be accomplished through use of anything from on-site fabricated bits-and-pieces to parts and assemblies cannibalized from wrecked aircraft.


   My assignment was to plan for, inspect potential fixit sites, work out and integrate the details, and prepare a supplement to the USAFE and SAC overall logistics support plans to close the gaps. The tasks were to draft " to..." policy and procedural guidelines and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP); identify hands-on maintenance and supervisory skills that applied to aircraft in the current SAC operations inventory, and provide for their continuing compatibility with replacement weapons and support systems as they became operational in the theater, identify by skill, name and location committed US civil service technicians and staff currently on duty at a depot, identify U S personnel policies which would need adjustment to the anticipated circumstances and initiate administrative actions toward policy changes.

   From there, I went on to provide for updating manpower resources to anticipated skills requirements, identify and set in motion urgent-immediate procedures to acquire (by standard practices or otherwise) relevant and current manuals and tech data, general and special hand tools, etc. Get a training plan into operation for the program applicable to maintenance team skills, team crew chiefs, and on-site and regional supervisors.

   Maintain a current team member notification system, and ongoing liaison with Hqs USAFE to acquire opportune air transportation from selected pick-up points for Mobile Maintenance Teams and drop-off at forward area emergency work sites. Put it all together, get staff and command approval in principle at Nouasseur, take the draft to Weisbaden (Lindsey Air Base) and get staff preliminary sign-off by Hqs Air Material Force European Area (AMFEA) and Hqs United States Air Force Europe (USAFE). Following that, get the coordination of the Directors of Maintenance and the Commanders at Burtonwood Air Depot UK and Chatereaux Air Depot France (Burtonwood and Chatereaux depots’ manpower, tools, and other resources were to be committed to the program, hence their being in the loop for sign-off.)

   With that done, I could come home, re-cycle, integrate, and send the package off to Hqs SAC, Offutt AFB, Oklahoma and give them a crack at it.

   Along the way, get with SAC and other (unidentified) intelligence types and check the lay of the land and surface conditions from Morocco east to Turkey.


   The three Directors of Maintenance at Nouasseur (Morocco), Chatereaux (France) and (Burtonwood) UK assemble personnel committed to Program, and using the previously authorized priorities request Base Commanders for opportune airlift to move skills, tools, supplies, tech data, etc., to the Program’s initial team assembly point in a specified maintenance hangar at Wheelus Field, Libya.

   At Wheelus, the program manager (a Nouasseur Air Depot military officer and staff) shuffle and combine the physically present skills, tools, etc., so that teams and their kits are formed, organized, equipped, and ready to move according to requirements and priorities at each forward site where maintenance teams are needed. By air, sea or land transport get the teams to their assigned stations, each Civil Service employee equipped with personal gear adequate for survival under the anticipated wartime conditions. Use designated transportation and other support priority, when essential to the mission.

   That, generally, was how it was supposed to work, at least in theory. But we knew better. The reality was that as soon as the nuclear threshold was crossed, which was highly probable, a US-NATO-USSR war wouldn’t last more than a couple of days – if that.

   The plan was one of several that I drafted while at Nouasseur and at other places in those early days of the Cold War. Many personal anecdotes, from the deeply sad and poignant to the trivial and absurd, have been written about World War Two, Korea, Viet Nam, and the other confrontations between the U S and the Soviets, but the Cold War in as many of its facets as possible, needs to be written about, including memoirs such as this, and they should be entered into the nation’s lore so that students will see their many facets and perspectives.

   I spent almost two years working out and drafting the details of this SAC support plan. Would it have worked if and when the need arose? Had plans been devised for other options? I don’t know. Not so incidentally, forward area emergency maintenance (Rapid Area Maintenance - RAM) teams which were much further advanced yet comparable in concept and missions to the SAC support plan I worked on in Morocco, were used extensively in Viet Nam.

Memoir: Fixing Production Mistakes 1979

   A management aid (SBA #242, 1979) that I wrote for small manufacturers and other businesses based on my work in deficiency analysis and reporting. The Small Business Administration (SCORE Program) printed and distributed 300,000 copies to manufacturers, other businesses, and public and academic libraries. The Aid suggests an organized 'corrective action' plan, relevant processes, and essential elements in the process when a manufacturing, service, support, or other mistake happens in the workplace and along the pipeline from manufacture of components to ultimate intended use. The options are shown in checklist form and may or may not apply to a specific situation: any one mistake and its causes and effects, as a collection of events, is unique and needs to be treated accordingly.

The complete guide is at:

Memoir: Supervisory Audit in the Work Unit (1981)

   This was written when I was a senior management analyst on the staff of an Inspector General at a U. S. Air Force logistics depot. Subsequently published as an article in National Development, a journal for managers and executives in developing nations (1981). The concept remains valid.

   A first-line supervisor’s audit of his/her work unit will vary according to the unit's purpose, layout, equipment, and product or service. The information may interest students who are training for a skill or vocation as a career, developing their managerial skills, or who are preparing to establish themselves in a business. It may also be useful to businessmen and women who are refining their supervisory training courses and the quality of their work areas.

   The supervisory audit is an on-site, searching examination of the operating level of a work unit and its internally directed operational systems. The audit is conducted by the unit supervisor directly responsible for the work unit or, where special skills are required, by subordinate technicians under the supervisor's observation. The audit checks for compliance with company policies and accepted work practices. In the process, deficiencies that need early attention are identified and acted upon. Examples of where quick actions might be needed are those that would prevent failures in equipment and material, reduce or eliminate a potential safety hazard, or modify an operational practice to meet a new requirement. The audit technique draws upon, and expands, the experience of managers, supervisors and technicians at all levels. It also provides superiors with a means to evaluate a subordinate supervisor's capabilities and judgement.

The objectives of a supervisory audit include:

- detect existing and potential errors as close to the points of origin as possible so as to;

- protect property;

- verify adequacy of work unit procedures and controls; and

- ensure compliance with safety directives.

The indirect benefits of the audit process include:

- observations that often have diagnostic value (i.e., pinpoint barriers to mission and operational effectiveness);

- assess consequences of changes brought about by new policies, procedures, and corrective actions for previously noted inadequacies;

- enhance supervisory and staff familiarity with company objectives, policies, and operations;

- promote beneficial communications (this is especially true where actions on an audit-disclosed problem depend of the support of others outside of the unit in which it was found); and

- motivation.

Adopting the program

   The adoption of a formal supervisory audit program should be an upper-management decision. That decision should be based on a comprehensive staff analysis of the costs, benefits, and operational disadvantages of the program in relation to the size and character of the organization and its purpose; the nature of facilities and equipment, and the technical expertise and motivation of first-level supervisors. Promoting supervisory expertise and motivation takes into account the quality and potential of each supervisor based on knowledge of the work area(s) under his or her supervision. They include ability and willingness to accept and integrate new techniques of administrative and/or technical skill; and competence in exercising authority (conditional, of course, on the scope and level of authority delegated by superiors).

   Advance planning and detailed preparations are essential for proper program implementation. It is advisable to issue a statement of general policy as soon as possible after a decision to proceed is made, so as to preclude the spreading of rumors that might distort the intent of the program. A good idea would be to introduce the concept in stages, down through the levels of supervision.

   In planning the audit program, the manager takes into account that two work units are rarely exactly alike. For some units or functions (administrative or clerical operations, for example) an audit of the physical facility may not be needed, or, because of the simplicity or stability of an office layout, may be left to the discretion of the supervisor. Conversely, the operating unit in shops, warehouses, motor pools, power distribution centers, construction sites, or dams are unique to their functions and will need to be treated accordingly when devising audit ground rules. Furthermore, those work areas in which heavy traffic, high densities of people and/or equipment, or safety (of people and things) are significant factors may require examination at frequent and, perhaps, random intervals.

   For some work units, an audit can be done in a single sweep. For others, it might be best to spread the review over days, or even weeks, so that different systems, operations, locations, or equipment could be seen at those times when an audit would have the optimal potential to detect weaknesses. Circumstance may dictate that an audit occur before the normal work period begins or after it ends, since work routines might render the area inaccessible for audit purposes.

   Audit policies should allow sufficient flexibility, without weakening controls, to permit each supervisor to adjust his/her audit schedule to the character of the unit. Each supervisor's audit schedule would be subject to the approval of the next higher level of supervision. There should be no confusion on one point, however -- a supervisory audit is a tool of the supervisory chain of command. It is not a quality assurance audit of product or service, nor does it replace, duplicate, or infringe on the organization's staff management auditing system.

Implementing Supervisory Audit

   An audit system should be organized around accepted criteria: approved management policies and directives, personnel management guidelines, health and safety standards, security controls, inventory management systems, facility and shop equipment authorization lists and layouts, and other rules and procedures that govern daily operations. The supervisor will need to be selective in his/her decision as to which criteria are the most appropriate for his/her work unit.

   Decisions may be required on the practicality of maintaining an ideal qualitative level in a work environment or an operational process. In some situations, the nature of the mission or service may permit no options; in others, many options may apply. The upper and lower limits of acceptability are management decisions, as are the decisions to act when the audit discloses significant deviations from established norms.

   The audit process will, on occasion, focus attention on problems beyond the capability or authority of the person(s) doing the audit. Organizational procedures should present clearly defined channels for such problems to be referred quickly to that level of management with the power to take appropriate action. In most situations, normal administrative follow-up will ensure that effective action is taken. However, in instances where multiple actions are required, or where significant costs may be incurred, it may better serve management's purposes to have documented reports to facilitate analysis, assign responsibilities, schedule actions, and exercise control. Management should also consider disseminating summaries of important disclosures and resultant actions to those units or functions in which comparable conditions are likely to prevail.

The audit guide

   A vital tool for the supervisory audit process is the audit guide. This guide gives comprehensive coverage to each supervisor's area of responsibility. To serve its purpose, the guide should be flexible in scope and depth. It should be easy to revise to meet changes in organizational procedures, technology, or facility arrangements. It should be understandable to the supervisor's superiors, since they will review it for adequacy, controls, and results.

The guide considers:

- Items (what to look at): equipment, facilities, tools, energy systems, communications and transport networks, supplies, materials, people, data and publications files, incoming and outgoing services that support the work unit, reporting controls, training.

- Observations (what to look for): safety in keeping with approved safety directives and experience, performance, condition and arrangement of tools and equipment for conformance with approved plans and specifications, compliance with preventive inspection and maintenance guides (see Note); availability of administrative and technical resources in accordance with authorizations, work backlogs and current validity of the reasons, causes of unacceptable stop-and-go operations, work stoppages and equipment downtime, status of skills upgrading and training to meet upcoming work requirements, effectiveness of internal communications systems, morale and discipline, currency and availability of operational directives, accuracy and timeliness of unit reports, disposition of nonessential records.

- Conditions (what was found): OK, damaged, unsafe, worn-out, surplus/shortage, unsuitable, unenforceable, unclear, out of place, out of sequence, not authorized, nonstandard, obsolete, not being complied with, in violation.

- References: organizational directives, numbered or otherwise identifiable specifications covering facilities, equipment and tools; manufacturer's operations manuals and parts catalogs, documented safety practices, unwritten but widely-accepted work and shop housekeeping practices, historical inspection and audit records.

   The format of the audit guide should be as simple as possible. It should confine itself to uncomplicated headings that give unit title, location, name and telephone extension of the unit supervisor (auditor), and the date/time of the audit. When the audit is phased over a period of time, the date/time entry should be adjacent the corresponding audit item. At the discretion of the auditor, abbreviations used can be defined to facilitate review by others.

   The main body of the guide includes the specifics of what to look at, when (how frequently) to look at it, and what to look for. Findings are recorded for each item. The audit items should be expressed in specific terms. For example, it would be unacceptable to use general questions, such as: "Are we complying with all safety rules?" "Are all reports being made?" "Is equipment satisfactory?" Instead, taking the matter of safety as an example, the guide should state important safety requirements by location within the unit and indicate what would constitute compliance. Thus, the guide would lead the auditor directly to items requiring review and any adverse findings would automatically trigger action. (see Exhibit)


   The supervisory audit, as a management technique, places emphasis on direct, disciplined application of the supervisor's traditional responsibilities. They include, as a minimum: to analyze the mission of the work unit and the availability of resources and capabilities, and to determine what is required to provide satisfactory product and service to the organization.

   The audit will help to nourish and fine-tune supervisory ability to bring about a clearer awareness of what is needed to get the job done. A carefully planned and implemented supervisory audit program will enhance supervisory abilities and discipline, expand the sense of responsibility, and contribute to team-oriented operations, and, in the process, significantly reduce the conditions that lead to errors, deficiencies, and waste of essential resources.

   Note: Preventive inspections and guides: The supervisory audit should not be confused with the routine preventive inspections of facilities and equipment for normal maintenance purposes. Preventive inspections are conducted by specialists or craftsmen using checklists and prescribed test sets and calibration tools specified by equipment manufacturers and facility engineers/technicians. The supervisory audit is concerned, rather, with the entire work unit as an integrated entity comprised of people, materials, facilities, equipment, and management systems. Its prime concern is the ability of the unit to perform tasks in a designated environment which may, at times, be different than where it was intended to function.

   The adequacy of the preventive inspection system within the unit is merely one of the many elements of interest in the overall audit process. Both processes, however, are of a preventive nature. Using preventive inspection of equipment as a case in point, the supervisory audit might determine:

- whether preventive inspection data for equipment located in the unit is available;

- whether the data has been updated to correspond to the unit's equipment modernization schedule;

- whether inspection guides contain the essential elements of information on technical requirements (i.e., steps to be followed in the preventive inspection process, frequency of inspections, records, tolerances, identification of tools and test sets, suggested skills to be applied, repair and maintenance procedures);

- whether prescribed inspection and maintenance tools and test sets are on hand, and are verified as calibrated for their preventive inspections use.


Elements of a Supervisory Audit Check List

Entry Codes:

ok = satisfactory

x = unsatisfactory

xx = unsatisfactory/needs immediate attention

inc = incomplete

dlnqt = delinquent

Audit Schedule

d = daily

w = weekly

m = monthly

6m = semiannually

ar = as required

d* = daily, and to be observed at opportune times whenever passing through shop

sp = special advance preparations

Examples of things to look at:

 Technical: Guards installed on machinery and power equipment; electrical power equipment grounded; preventive inspection records up-to-date; metal containers in place for oily rags; metal disposal cans marked according to contents; workers not wearing loose clothing or hand/neck jewelry; eye and head protective gear being used; engineering and manufacturing data for work orders are on hand and were checked against work orders.

 Housekeeping: Work areas clean; fans in working order; clean-up equipment on-hand; sand buckets, filled; fire extinguishers in place and current.

 Administrative: Downtime report in; backlog report in; equipment location report current; equipment Tech Rep scheduled for preventive maintenance on machines nrs 123, 345, and 456; in-house preventive maintenance reports complete; tool crib stock in hand report in, materials requisitions reviewed; skills upgrading reviewed with Training Dept; Policies and Practices Handbook current with latest Index.

Memoir: Suicide Prevention in the U. S. Armed Forces; the ‘Viet Nam’ Years: McClellan Air Force Base, California, 1969 and later

   (Caution: This memoir does not constitute guidance or advice, in any form or manner whatsoever, to persons who may be experiencing suicide ideation or intent. If you feel suicidal seek professional help immediately.)


   Mental health experts have come to accept paraprofessional-level crisis intervention and suicide prevention workers as among those in the forefront of primary resources. The view is that their intervention might reduce the lethality of a person contemplating suicide, and even influence someone to who has actually initiated the act of suicide to draw back from it. In this regard, some years ago, Dr. Calvin Frederick, a past President of the American Association of Suicidology wrote: (quoting):

   "Dealing with suicidal behavior, that is, suicide prevention] differs from more classical diagnostic and treatment procedures in the following respects:

1) suicidal behavior covers a broad range of disturbances and personalities and is, therefore, not a unitary concept;

2) it possesses a unique life or death quality;

3) intervention does not utilize traditional therapy methods;

4) the problem is multidimensional and multidisciplinary, often involving social and cultural attitudes, the law, medical intervention, and innovative psychological approaches;

5) the use of indigenous volunteers as stable and sensitive crisis workers is greater than that found in most aspects of therapeutic endeavor. (unquote)


   Before I retired from the federal civil service in 1974 I was the civilian deputy to the Inspector General (IG) at McClellan Air Force Base, a major military installation near Sacramento, California. The base had about 25,000 permanent personnel (military and civil service) at the time. In addition to its local operations and worldwide logistics functions McClellan AFB was a major hub in the pipeline for military personnel and materiel to and from Southeast Asia and the Pacific Area generally.

   I was and remain a lay person in all mental health disciplines. My involvement in ‘suicide prevention’ as it applied to the U. S. Armed Forces is based on circumstances of the ‘Viet Nam War.’ The bulk of active duty military mental health professionals and trained support staff were serving in Southeast Asia and at en route stations for military personnel on their way to or from SEA. Military mental health professionals and staff were also concentrated at medical and other facilities in the U. S. where Armed Forces wounded received care. This resulted in a general and often critical shortage of mental health specialists and support staff at stateside military installations. It was not unusual for Civil Service employees working in other than the mental health fields to be temporarily assigned ‘additional duties’ to fill priority requirements and gaps in staffing.

   Among my routine IG duties was to hear and try to resolve grievances and complaints of permanent and transient military and civil service personnel, military dependents, and the general public. It was not unusual in my interviews with a desperate military or dependent grievant to hear him or her hint at suicide ideation or contemplating a self-destructive act if a "reasonable" solution was not reached to his/her problem. As one whose career background was in logistics and related administrative functions, such complaints and potential self-destructiveness was new to me.

   In 1969, the McClellan Air Force Base senior Commander (General Officer) requested me to represent him on the Sacramento County Mental Health Council. At the time, the Council was considering the establishment of a county Suicide Prevention Service (SPS). The SPS was quickly approved, and I became involved as a volunteer SPS ‘planner’ during my non-duty working hours. As the SPS functions and workloads became clear, I joined its paraprofessional training to certification, and when the Service became operational took my turn on the ‘hotline,’ especially on calls related to my McClellan responsibilities.

   In time, because of the number and sources of incoming calls, I extended my involvement to SPS liaison with several military bases in the Sacramento area (Mather and Travis Air Force Bases, the Army Signal Depot, etc.). At that time, central California and Nevada had military installations where active duty personnel of all Services were in transit or stationed for training and operations. In effect, the Sacramento-San Francisco corridor and its communities in the late 1960s-mid 1970s was filled with active duty military, dependents and retirees.

  One viewpoint expressed among those engaged in the suicide prevention field is that official statistics on the number of suicides and suicide attempts in any given population are like the tips of icebergs. They do not reveal to the casual analyst the reality of how many in that population succeeded in killing themselves, intentionally, and how many tried and failed, and did or might try again - intentionally.

   Experts’ estimates occasionally appear in both professional and popular media that, conservatively, there are about eight to ten successful suicides for each one certified as ‘completed’ for the official record. Also, that there is about fifteen unsuccessful, often hidden, suicide attempts for each one that is formally classified as successful, again, for the record.

   Among my Inspector General’s office responsibilities was to organize and operate McClellan AFB’s support to the ‘Air Force Inspector General Complaints System’. The basic principle of the System holds that, as a last resort within their organization, military and civilian personnel, members of military families, and military retirees have the right to address a grievance or appeal to an installation’s Inspector General. The Inspector General represents the installation’s senior Commander. An appeal to the IG may be for information and explanations concerning status and duties; perceived unreasonable conditions under which a person works, inadequate support to self or dependents, or for other reasons relief from what is believed to be an intolerable and unjustifiable situation.

   As noted above, there were occasions when a complainant hinted at an act of desperation as the only remaining recourse should he or she be denied what they considered reasonable resolution of the issue they presented. In the IG function a potential ‘act of desperation’ to self, others or ‘things’ was not granted ‘confidentiality.’

   The SPS policy, on the other hand, was to not disclose a caller’s identity: protecting a hotline caller’s identity is (or was at the time) generally practiced by most suicide prevention centers unless the caller or another person in the episode was in an imminent life-death crisis. It was not unusual for such calls to require information or actions from staff at a military or other government entity.

   Organized, volunteer-staffed, suicide prevention ‘hotline’ services were beginning to operate in the larger cities throughout the U.S. In the late ‘60s, about a hundred 24/7 centers were active across the country. To help me understand the ‘suicide’ phenomenon and to perform my duties in support of the USAF IG Complaints System, I became a regular volunteer at the SPS, attended their ongoing paraprofessional and upgrade training, and worked a shift and ‘on call’ with the hotline. I served with the SPS Speakers Bureau, Executive Board and other committees and gave talks about the base and community programs at staff, non-commissioned officers’, military dependents’, civilian community, and other meetings.

   Job-specific, I compiled an information kit on suicide ‘myths’ versus ‘facts,’ and on visible signs that might suggest a friend or family member was experiencing suicide ideation. I acquired copies of handouts and other literature from the SPS and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and sent them to my counterparts at other military bases. The USAF Inspector General printed an article about the information kits in the USAF TIG BRIEF (The Inspector General Brief [TIG Brief]) an IG administrative newsletter distributed to U. S. Air Force organizations worldwide and to the headquarters of other Services. The newsletter was also distributed in Viet Nam. The item resulted in more than 150 requests to my office from Southeast Asia and elsewhere.

   During talks I gave to military personnel and civilian community I was occasionally asked for examples of a ‘hotline’ interview and follow up with a distressed caller. Two of the three following summaries relate to the Viet Nam conflict. The third is a problem all too common, regardless of the times; it happened and continues to happen as often in the civilian world as it does in the military. I’ve screened my recollections so as to honor my commitments to confidentiality. The narration reflects a tiny sample of the effects of stress in military life and is not intended to represent major emotional, behavioral, or physical indicators of suicide ideation. My regular work shift at the SPS usually brought me as much of a military-civilian mix of callers as the other hotline workers, so I’ve seen both sides.

   The contacts were by telephone, and in two of the three cases led to a number of quick calls to several parties on and off McClellan. Each caller had the potential for violence, either to self or another. If intervention, at a high point in the interaction failed, the situation might well have deteriorated, possibly with tragic results.


   While on the job in the McClellan IG office, a phone call came in from the SPS Director who told me he needed my help right then. A young Army draftee was on the SPS hotline, threatening to kill himself. He was supposed to be on his way to Viet Nam but had gone AWOL instead. He was far from home and felt lost and confused. He said he had one question before deciding whether to kill himself:

   ‘What’ll they do to me if I turn myself in?’

   He wouldn’t give his name or say where he was.

   The SPS Director said that he didn’t have the answer. He told the soldier he had a contact at a nearby military base that could check it out. Holding the caller on one line he called me on another and gave me the facts. I immediately called the Base Staff Judge Advocate - who was part of my on-base network - and had him phone the SPS Director immediately to review the ramifications of military justice as it might apply. The SPS Director passed the information to the soldier and then talked to him for about an hour. The guidance provided by the Staff Judge Advocate gave the soldier options that might reduce potential charges he faced, not ruling out desertion. We never found out what the soldier decided; he never called back.

   This call, and how it was handled, demonstrated teamwork between a community suicide prevention resource and military and civil service administrators on a military base. Comparable groundbreaking was going on in other military-civilian communities and contexts.

Family Problem

   The Base Chaplain called me at home late one Sunday night and said he’d had a phone call from a hotline worker at the county SPS. The SPS worker had asked for his help in a call that had come in from an airman’s wife. She had phoned the SPS from her home off base and threatened to kill her husband and then commit suicide.

   The caller to the SPS had impulsively terminated the call after a few minutes, but in her responses to questions at the outset of the interview, had given her phone number to the hotline worker. After she hung up, the SPS worker concluded the woman was more than moderately lethal, and also that she might listen to a military Chaplain. That brought on the call to the Base Chaplain.

   The Chaplain phoned the woman and talked to her for about 10 minutes before she hung up on him too. His conclusion, also, was that she was highly lethal for both homicide and suicide. He phoned the Base Security Police and then the Director of Personnel. The Chaplain was to leave that day for Viet Nam, so the Director of Personnel suggested he call me.

   The Chaplain asked me to follow up. I called the woman. The conversation was heavy, and lasted for more than 2 hours. The problem was in marital relations, finances, and spouse abuse. We finally got around to talking about on-base resources that might ease the load she was carrying: the Staff Judge Advocate, Family Services and Medics. Just listening, and then talking about potential on-base resources helped to lower the pressure. She finally agreed to wait until morning, now only a couple of hours distant, in order that specialists at the activities we discussed could be consulted.

   First thing that morning, I invited the base Family Services people into the act. They moved in fast, took control, got the airman’s wife around to talk to the right people, and did a lot themselves. I checked back later. Family Services had her under their wing. She wasn’t talking about murder-suicide any more. It was going to be one day at a time for her for a while. She now had somewhere on base where she felt she could turn, and people in whom she had some confidence.

   Why hadn’t the woman tried Family Services on her own? I don’t know. She chose the civilian community’s suicide prevention resource. She had other options, and she might have tried them too. What’s my point? Another instance in which military and civilian community resources collaborated and made the system work.


   At about 11 PM one night I was in my shift at the SPS hotline desk. The phone rang; it was the switchboard supervisor at the area telephone service. She said she had a soldier on-line, that he was in a fury and she couldn’t handle him. Would I take him? I told her to let me have him and he was on.

   It took a while to get him down to where he could speak coherently. He was an enlisted man, he said, just in from Southeast Asia and making his way to the East Coast. His problem wasn’t suicidal -- at least at this point -- but from the way he talked, homicidal. He was in a barroom, drinking and minding his own business. Another patron at the bar had ridiculed his uniform and his Service. He had a weapon in his bag, he said, and had an almost overwhelming urge to use it.

   A stranger in town, just passing through, he realized that he’d better talk to someone. Searching for some means to vent his rage against the insult -- other than committing an assault -- he had, on impulse, picked up the barroom phone and dialed the operator. He must have come down real heavy on her and her supervisor, because he found himself, all of a sudden, switched to a hotline worker at the local SPS.

   We talked for more than three hours. At the outset he was openly hostile, demanded to know who I was, and how the hell I had been loaded on to him. When I told him, he said he didn’t know what "suicide prevention" was all about and, anyhow, wanted no part of it. But he didn’t hang up on me, and we never hung up on anyone.

   When he realized that he was talking to someone who had more than a passing knowledge of the military, who could respond in his jargon and relate to his lifestyle and to his feelings, his hostility eased. He talked, I listened. As I said, this went on for about three hours. Other feelings began to surface.

   He admitted that he had been deeply shaken and enraged by his experiences during border crossings into Cambodia and other missions, and he still carried the same, almost overwhelming anger. Without my bringing it up, he confided that he’d had intense thoughts about self-injury, even suicide, and that the feelings had been strongest before starting off on missions. His rage, remorse and thoughts of suicide were still with him and, looking back at them in calmer moments, he said he was alarmed at their intensity. After a while, he admitted, reluctantly, that he might need help. He said he would think about seeking it out when he got to his permanent station.

   At the close, he was much calmer. He phoned back a few hours later and told the hotline worker on duty that he was at the bus depot, and would soon leave for the east. He said to pass the word to me that he was OK.

Beyond ‘Viet Nam’


   It was clear to me from my IG and SPS experiences, that much could be accomplished through a carefully designed system for collaboration between military installations - or other federal entities - in any given geographic area and the crisis intervention/suicide prevention (ci/sp) resources of adjacent civilian communities. The potential for good was enormous, not only for and within the military community, but to the nation. I learned in time that I was not alone; many others, professionals and lay, in and out of government, were actively advocating along similar lines.

   I was convinced that the time was long past for both military and civilian managers and supervisors, in both the public and private sectors to acquire basic indoctrination in ci/sp as it pertained to the people that they commanded or supervised. I wrote numerous letters on the issue, recommending specific actions, and continued doing so after I retired in 1974. My appeals went to the Federal Executive, Congress, and the media. I stressed the urgent need for proactive command or agency-wide training and motivational programs to confront the suicide phenomenon, and to get organized to reduce suicide attempts and deliberate self-destructive behavior among military personnel, members of their families, and DoD and other Departments’ employees.

   I advocated, first, for a set of formal objectives for the federal military and civil services to move them toward collaboration with community resources engaged in grass roots ci/sp; in essence, teamwork between government, as an employer of people, and the communities in which their people lived and worked. If the concept could get a foot in the door at the federal level, then state and county governments might hitch a ride on the system, and ultimately, so would private sector employers. It made little difference at which level of management the initiative would be taken, cross feed and human nature would eventually get others interested. The suicide trend, the way I read the Public Health Service’s statistics of the early and mid-70s, was heading up.

   Many government and private sector employers already had in-house programs for stress management. They also had employees who, although lay persons, had been trained and qualified to give emergency CPR and other forms of first aid at the work site. So why not someone in the shop or office who was basically trained in suicide prevention and crisis intervention? As with other on-site emergency services, this person, who would have been trained and qualified to recognize discernible and professionally recognized signs that might precede a suicide attempt, would consult with a supervisor, and exercise his/her judgment in getting the person-in-distress ASAP to professional help.

   Community suicide prevention programs (certified SP Centers, informal hotlines, Community Mental Health Centers, etc.) had by that time become a fact of life: they existed, and were part of the system, organized or ad hoc. Proactive ‘suicide prevention’ would generate its own force for being: it would not get canceled like an aircraft, ship, or construction program, to the contrary. With oversight by reasonable and conscientious leaders, managers and supporters, suicide prevention would become ingrained, omnipresent, and a way of life in which everyone would play a vital role.

   What is vital to sustain ‘suicide prevention’ is to spread the idea, and make it ‘everybody’s business.’ Getting the concept accepted as ‘everybody’s business’ would be ‘everybody’s job.’ The ‘everybody’ would include parents and teachers and counselors of children and youth, police officers and rescue workers on the street, and supervisors, staff, and union officials in the workplace. It would be where people played, in their neighborhoods, and go along with each age population to where they spend their retirement years.

   For the elderly (among whom depression and suicide rates are very high) crisis intervention resources, and suicide prevention and risk-reduction depends on leaders and staff of health care institutions, administrators and staff in retirement communities and convalescent and nursing homes, senior centers, AARP chapters, and anywhere the elderly gather. The reality would also depend on the elderly themselves, individually and collectively, e.g., to get past the long history they inherited of bigotry, superstition, and ignorance when it comes to mental health, suicide, and helping survivors of suicide. Emphasis on alternative and adult education, support groups, and motivational seminars overcome barriers among middle year adults (parents of school age children) as well as the elderly.

   An article I wrote in 1984 Suicide Prevention Must Be Everybody’s Business was published in the January 14, 1985 supplement to the Army, Navy and Air Force Times. I posed the following questions for Commanders:

   ‘a. Does your base have a program whereby supervisors and co-workers who might be confronted with suicidal people are trained to recognize the warning signs and refer potential suicides to professionals?

   ‘b. Are any base personnel, especially security police, social actions or family support workers, trained in crisis intervention techniques? Are any of them volunteer workers in the local community’s suicide prevention program?

   ‘c. Does your base have any sort of arrangement with local suicide prevention centers or hotlines so that a civilian crisis worker can contact the base for information or assistance? Do civilian volunteers know exactly whom to call for help when a military person or dependent threatens suicide?

   ‘d. Do your base officials routinely check with local crisis clinics to find out the number and types of distress calls being received from military people? Is this information analyzed to determine trends or patterns?

   ‘e. Do your base mental health workers give talks to active duty and dependents’ groups on this subject? Are civilian experts in suicide prevention brought on base to explain their services?’

   The following month (February 22, 1985), the Secretary of the Army and the Chief of Staff issued a Memorandum for Major Commands and Staff Agencies which stated in part, "The Department of the Army has developed a Suicide Prevention Strategy designed to help commanders deal with this problem. Commanders must use this plan and complement it with initiatives tailored to specific needs."

   During the following months the Department of the Army issued implementing directives, programs, and guides.

   I secured copies of studies, plans, directives, guides and other documents published by NIMH, the American Association of Suicidology (AAS), and the Army on their in-house suicide prevention programs. In late 1985 I compiled and published them in book form, title: ‘Military-Civilian Teamwork in Suicide Prevention,’ sold them through bookstores and donated two thousand copies in response to orders and requests from military installations, other government activities, schools, and the private sector. Another update in 1988 ‘Suicide Prevention Programs in the Department of Defense’, and the last update in 1994, ‘Military-Civilian Teamwork in Suicide Prevention’ also received a wide distribution.

   My intent, in collecting and disseminating information on suicide prevention programs and practices of the Armed Forces, NIMH, and other contributors was to join with the many lay persons, like myself, who had become ‘advocates.’ I felt that wide distribution might also promote cross feed and thereby focusing on conflicting policies and procedures. The process, itself would encourage collaboration among professionals, paraprofessionals, and administrators and directors of suicide prevention entities in neighboring civilian communities. Further, I hoped that publicizing the Armed Forces’ plans and procedures for ci/sp would encourage other government entities to explore their needs for comparable programs, and that potentially beneficial ideas and methodologies might spin off to the private sector.

   My continuing interest in proactive and organized suicide prevention efforts in the Armed Forces led me to write to then Secretary of Defense Les Aspin, and to Senator Sam Nunn and Congressman Ronald Dellums in their roles as Senate and House chairmen, respectively, of committees charged with the oversight of military affairs. A copy of my letter to, and the response from the Office of the Secretary of Defense is included further along in this memoir.


   A monumental medical and societal advance was made in suicide prevention by the original U S Army Suicide Prevention Plan, (Feb 1985) prepared by the Directorate of Human Resources, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel. The Plan called on each U S Army base to develop and publish an installation Suicide Prevention Plan. The plan was to provide for active duty units, Army families, the Army Community, and civilian employees of the Army. Among its many initiatives were several dealing with collaboration with civilian communities and other public and private sector mental health and crisis intervention resources.

   The Navy issued its program in 1987, and the Air Force issued formal policy guidance in 1997 on implementing their suicide prevention program. Since the USAF 1997-policy statement follows my dated copies of the Army and Navy programs by about a decade, I assume that it conforms to more recent DoD medical policies on the subject and perhaps has been scrutinized and commented upon by the other Services. The following is from the USAF Policy Letter Digest December 1997 (Source: World Wide Web, search engine title: ‘Air Force Policy Letter Digest’).


Building Healthy Communities - Intervention and Prevention

   The global mission of the Air Force requires airmen who are fit, healthy and ready to deploy on a moment’s notice.

   To build healthy lifestyles and do it in the most cost-effective manner, the Air Force is investing in capabilities that promote prevention and intervention. Put Prevention into Practice (PPIP) is a strategy developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which the Air Force has implemented to organize and guide the preventive medicine efforts of medical providers.

   The first step in PPIP is the health enrollment assessment review (HEAR), which is conducted with each patient as he or she enrolls... and (which is) then is updated annually. Data from the HEAR helps to identify the health status and prevention needs of patients. This data ... is used by major commands and the Air Staff to assure that resources are available to care for the populations assigned.

   The second element of PPIP is the preventive health assessment (PHA), which in 1996 replaced the periodic physical examination program for all active-duty members. The PHA is a four-stage process that includes a prevention-oriented clinical screening, occupational examination, screening of military-unique medical requirements and counseling. The PHA will help ensure the highest rates of mission and mobility readiness by providing feedback to commanders on the health of their troops.

   Air Force leadership is concerned about the ability of its members to cope with increasing levels of stress in the face of significant increases in operations tempo and force downsizing. As a result, the Air Force established an integrated product team (IPT) to evaluate suicides among active-duty members and to develop strategies for suicide prevention and intervention.

   The IPT identified numerous factors as leading causes of suicide service wide. Chief among them were relationship difficulties, members facing adverse actions viewed as ‘career ending,’ financial difficulties, substance abuse and the perception that seeking help would have a negative impact on the individual’s career. After evaluating this information, the team called in consultants from both the Air Force and public sector to develop a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention.

   Since the inception of the suicide prevention IPT, the suicide rate for active-duty members has decreased by more than 35 percent. This has been strong senior leadership, awareness training for all Air Force members, training at all levels of professional military education, and the development of critical incident stress management teams at every installation. The bottom line in successful suicide prevention is self-aid and buddy care. Everyone must lead the culture shift in the way prevention services are delivered and remove the stigma of seeking help.

   The Air Force established policies providing limited confidentiality protection to service members experiencing personal problems and greatly expanded the proactive role of mental health service providers. Various helping agencies in the Air Force - such as family services, chaplains, mental health services, substance abuse and health and wellness centers - now work together to provide comprehensive prevention services that enhance both individual and organizational resilience. In fact, a civilian consultant hired by DoD to evaluate the military services’ suicide prevention programs praised the Air Force’s program as one that is ‘as advanced and enlightened as any I have heard of.’

   Commanders, first sergeants, first-line supervisors and co-workers must be aware of danger signs and encourage members to seek help. Leaders should become familiar with Air Force Instruction (AFI) 44-154, ‘Suicide Prevention Education and Community Training,’ and AFI 44-153, ‘Critical Incident Stress Management.’

   Base helping agencies are now working closely together under an integrated delivery system, or IDS. The IDS is designed to link base helping agencies to address risk factors, reduce stress and improve the coping skills and general well- being of individuals and families in the Air Force community. Wing commanders received guidance on implementing this system for their units earlier this year. Commanders at all levels can now work closely with the various agencies to offer a more comprehensive range of prevention services, increase the protective factors and decrease the behavioral risk factors in the community.

   As base agencies join ranks, potential problems can be identified earlier and efforts taken more quickly to prevent tragic trends.




   This instruction implements AFPD 44 -1, Medical Operations, concerning suicide prevention education and community training. It establishes requirements and procedures for the conduct of general suicide prevention education and community training. This instruction applies to all active duty Air Force, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve, as well as Air Force civilian employees, except for Title 32 U. S. C National Guard Technicians (IAW Technician Personnel Regulation 100 (172)).

1. Community Training Requirements.

1.1. The Secretary of the Air Force will ensure that all Air Force personnel, to include active duty, guard and reserve, as well as civilian employees receive training in general suicide prevention education at least on an annual basis including awareness of basic suicide risk factors and referral procedures for potentially at risk personnel. Training programs will be designed to destigmatize help seeking behavior among Air Force personnel and not destigmatize the act or attempt of suicide itself.

1.2. The Air Force Surgeon General will be the primary Air Force OPR for this training, and will ensure that this training is conducted as detailed throughout each MAJCOM, as well as in the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve.

1.3. Each MAJCOM will ensure that all squadron commanders receive training in basic suicide risk factor identification and referral procedures for at risk personnel as part of the new squadron commander’s course. Additionally, each MAJCOM will ensure that the following training is conducted at each base, with base mental health serving as the primary OPR for this training.



   The following is quoted from the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) Healthy People 2000 Report - Citizens Chart the Course, a separate volume of Healthy People 2000 which records the testimony and suggestions of citizens interviewed by the Public Health Service in the development of year 2000 national health objectives. The quote is from the section: Violent and Abusive Behavior, page 137): (quote) ‘Meyer (Mike) Moldeven of California, says that volunteer training is an important component of successful suicide intervention for all ages: ‘A community’s suicide intervention and prevention resources - of which the suicide prevention center, crisis center, and hotline are elements - depend to an enormous degree on local paraprofessionals and trained volunteers. In the workplace, employers already provide programs for stress management, as well as cardiopulmonary resuscitation and first-aid training. Thus , ‘why not a lay worker on the job site who is trained to function in an emergency suicide situation?’ asks Moldeven. ‘The United States [Armed Forces] have established formal suicide prevention programs, and the groundwork laid can be used to tailor comparable programs for other employers.’(unquote)

   The largest single federal department, formally recognizing suicide as a critical challenge to the good and welfare of their personnel, took a great leap forward by formalizing ‘suicide prevention.’ With the foresight and efforts of advocates and caring managers, comparable initiatives, both formal and ad hoc, can be expected from other government entities. When top-management-directed - and supported - suicide intervention and prevention policies do take root throughout the federal system, as they inevitably will, they will merge or interact with adjacent Regional, State and community programs. The United States Armed Forces 'everybody’s business’ approach to crisis intervention and suicide prevention for their military and civilian populations has great potential toward the public good.

   Public and private sector employers and schools benefit from their awareness of policies, resources, and standard operating procedures for suicide intervention and prevention practiced by institutions and other employers in their area. Where such cross feed and mutuality does not prevail, employer-community initiatives can explore them and apply worthy results. Such efforts contribute to the well being of employees and their families, parents, teachers, counselors and students, encourage and improve industrial and community safety, and generally enhance esteem and mutual respect among employers and the community of which they are a part.

   In order that ci/sp policies, practices, and training can move forward, information that will help the ultimate recipient of crisis intervention services needs to be disseminated to all levels and throughout all functions of the military and civilian communities: the line and the staff and their families; the civil services, academic and business communities, the domain of the elderly, and the general public. Readily accessible in public, institutional, and industry’s libraries, adapted to and ingrained within the system, the procedures and delineation of who-does-what in crisis intervention/suicide prevention will help to coordinate and improve plans, methods, and collaboration across the board. The news media and the Internet can alert employers that do not as yet have their own programs, and keep them informed of opportunities to participate.

   Following is an excerpt from my correspondence with the Office of the U S Secretary of Defense concerning ‘confidentiality’ in suicide prevention in the Armed Forces:

April 26, 1993


Secretary of Defense

The Pentagon

Washington, DC 20301

Honorable Secretary:

[The opening paragraph in the original letter cited a number of suicides at a military installation. Identification of the activities involved is not relevant to the text of this excerpt.]

   There is one aspect of organizing around (suicide intervention and prevention) all-services-wide - that deserves review at command level and, if a covering policy or management system exists, that it be publicized throughout the services and in civilian communities adjacent military installations.

   Normally, a military person with an intolerable personal problem tries to get relief from within the system of which he or she is part, e.g., a buddy, family support services, chain-of-command, personnel staff, the IG, etc. Many personal problems are not job related, but because of the victim’s inability to cope, spill over and affect "job." When the person is in a suicidal crisis, realizes that help is urgently needed, and wants such help, he or she will not hesitate to contact whomever can provide it, if not from within the system, then from outside.

   Unless the military administrative system has changed on this point, a suicidal military person, or a suicidal member of his or her family who seeks help from within the system, believes that a record of the contact will be made. The "record" transforms to stigma and a potential threat to present job and future career.

   "Records," more often than not, compel the person in a suicidal crisis to look elsewhere. Elsewhere includes the adjacent civilian community’s crisis intervention resources, specifically, the suicide prevention telephone hotline where callers need not provide identification - they’re as safe from being identified as anywhere they can be under their circumstances. The hotline worker does what can be accomplished quickly to keep the caller from slipping deeper into crisis and acting out a threat to suicide. They listen, offer nonjudgmental feedback, and together with the caller, explore options.

   Almost invariably, when a civilian community crisis worker (telephone hotline or face-to-face) needs information on options unique to military life to help a suicidal military member or someone in his or her immediate family, the source is the nearest base’s health care, personnel or other administrative functions. Very often, when contacts with base officials occur and the worker has the name of a suicidal caller, confidentiality is literally vital; being tagged in the base’s records as someone who phoned an off-base crisis center carries almost certain exposure to military authority, and might well add the final straw.

   If it’s accepted that the military base and its adjacent civilian community should cooperate in suicide intervention, then the civilian and military agencies need mutually accepted procedures to do the job. If a community’s crisis resource has one set of procedures for cooperation from the Navy, another for the Marine Corps, and still others for the Army and the Air Force, confusion mounts and collaboration suffers. This is especially true when the situation is tight and there isn’t much time to keep a suicide threat from becoming an act. To the telephone hotline worker in a suicide prevention center it makes no difference whatsoever if the person on the other end of the line is a soldier, sailor, airman, marine - or civilian. On the other side of the scale, however, is the we-take-care-of-our-own turf, and that, to the suicidal person, is meaningless.

   I hoped that, by now, military bases would have been further along in collaborating with adjacent civilian suicide prevention resources and that such teamwork would be reflected in base and community media. How else would a military person or a member of his or her family on the edge of a life-death decision for themselves know where to go or whom to phone, especially where their privacy and confidentiality would be respected - if they decided to take a chance and continue living? Is a city telephone directory listing for the local crisis center enough?

   Agreements, procedures and contact points for military-civilian teamwork in suicide prevention deserve to begin on a county, metropolitan, or other regional basis, rather than in single-base to community understandings, especially where the area has installations that represent different services. When all the services in an area have maximum understanding among themselves about collaborating with community suicide intervention resources, it will optimize the support that they and their people as individuals can ask for from that resource, and the help that the hotline worker can offer to them. In effect, when a civilian suicide hotline has been appealed to for help by a military member/family member the crisis line worker will have clearly written, mutually agreed upon procedures for communications and actions with each base in the area. All concerned will have been trained, tested, and know to the greatest degree possible who is going to do what. With present computer networking capabilities the resources indices in such guides can be readily maintained current and widely disseminated throughout a region and on and among military installations.

   The opinions in this letter are my own, and are based on my experiences as a civilian IG-type and suicide prevention hotline volunteer in the late ‘60s/early 70s (and hassling the bureaucracy on this subject into the mid-80s.) I am not now associated with any mental health profession or military organization - strictly a private citizen. It may be that what I’ve suggested already exists or, conversely, that it isn’t justified; I don’t know, but I would be remiss not to present my views for your consideration.




(From) Office of the Secretary of Defense

Washington D. C. 20301

(Force Management and Personnel)

Dear Mr. Moldeven:

   Thank you for your letter of April 26, 1993 to Mr. Les Aspin, regarding suicide prevention programs in the Department of Defense.

   Your letter prompted a review of policy in the Department of Defense on suicide prevention. The Department of Defense does not address suicide prevention in its directive on Health Promotion. That directive was published March 11, 1986, and is in need of revision. The Department is reviewing and revising that directive and a suicide prevention section will be added. We will address in the development of that section the issues you raised in your letter to Mr. Aspin.

   Thank you for your interest and continued concern in this important mental health area.

   S/Principal Director

(Military Manpower and Personnel Policy)

[added, hand-written: ‘Thanks!’]

cc: OASD(HA)

   The following text is an example of a major command’s internal instruction published in the course of the changes to the DoD and Service Policies and Instructions on suicide prevention. The instruction was widely disseminated to the Command’s subordinate and field activities and to ‘Other Commands’.






1. Purpose. To establish suicide prevention training, stress management training, and a program for assisting commands in coping with the aftermath of critical incidents, within Commander, Naval Base, Pearl Harbor’s (COMNAVBASE Pearl) region of responsibility (Hawaiian Region). The primary goals of this instruction are to promote healthy coping strategies, to increase awareness of the signs and symptoms of potentially suicidal behavior, and to encourage early intervention in assisting individuals either identified to be at risk for suicidal behavior, or identified as having been potentially affected by a critical incident.

2. Background

   a. Every person in the Navy family has the potential to come in contact with a person who is at increased risk of suicide. It follows that early identification and intervention in preventing suicide is the responsibility of all naval personnel.

   b. Crucial steps in the suicide prevention process are an awareness of life stress events that put individuals at risk as well as an awareness of the signs and symptoms of a person at risk.

   c. It is the assumption of this instruction that commands can significantly reduce the risk of suicides and adverse reactions to critical incidents by promoting preventive efforts as described herein.

3. Action

   a. Installation commanders will ensure training in the following subject areas is made routinely available to all naval personnel on installation:

   - The prevention and management of suicidal behavior. Enclosure 1.

   - Stress management. Enclosure 2

   - The Commanding Officer, Naval Medical Clinic, Pearl Harbor, will provide:

      (1) Command consultations and critical incident debriefings, as requested by unit commanders, per enclosure (3).

      (2) Management of suicidal patients per reference (a).

      (3) Assessment and advice to unit commanders on noted trends and stress factors brought to the Clinic’s attention as a result of assessments of patients from that unit.

      (4) Assistance to Directors of Installation Family Service Centers in providing suicide awareness training, as needed.

   c. Directors of Installation Family Service Centers will provide:

      (1) Training on the prevention and management of suicidal behavior, as suggested in enclosure (1), as requested by individual service members, unit commanding officers, and base security officers.

      (2) Stress management training, as suggested in enclosure (2), as requested by individual service members, unit commanding officers, and base security officers.

   d. Unit commanders will:

      (1) Ensure all personnel within the command receive training every 24 months on:

      (a) Prevention and management of suicidal behavior as suggested in enclosure (1).

      (b) Stress management, per reference (b) and as suggested in enclosure (2).

      (2) Report all suicides and attempted suicides per reference (c).

   e. Installation Security Officers will:

      (1) Ensure all police personnel receive annual training as suggested in enclosures (1) and (2)

      (2) Establish liaison with local military and civilian crisis agencies, such as the Suicide and Crisis Center, to coordinate assistance efforts when needed.

      (3) Ensure all police personnel receive specific training in the handling of situations involving civilians considered at risk for self-harm. Reference (d) applies.

   f. Installation and unit Senior Chaplains will:

      (1) Advise installation and unit commanders on moral and ethical issues and other stress factors that may result in an increased number of people at risk.

      (2) Assist commands and directors of Installation Family Service Centers in providing training, as needed.

   g. Commander, Naval Base, Pearl Harbor (Code 013) and Installation Public Affairs Officers will ensure regular publication of suicide prevention and awareness information in appropriate military publications.

4. Strategy

   a. The strategy and supporting elements of the Suicide Prevention and Occupational Mental Health Program are based on the premise that suicide prevention and the prevention of debilitating reactions to critical incidents will be accomplished by leaders through command policy and action. The key to the prevention of suicide is positive leadership and deep concern by supervisors of military personnel and civilian employees who are at increased risk of suicide.

      (1) The tone which the unit sets allows the individual sailor or marine to know it is all right to have a problem and to talk about it. In those units which recognize all individuals get stuck from time to time and it is all right to ask for assistance, the feelings of estrangement are reduced, adaptation to change is enhanced and alternatives generated.

      (2) Leaders and supervisors must know their subordinates and ensure timely assistance is provided when needed. Commanders must emphasize the importance of stress management and suicide prevention through the publication of command letters, unit general military and leadership training, unit instructions, and plan of the day notices, as appropriate. Inclusion of excerpts from enclosure (2) in the unit plan of the day is an excellent way to get the word out. Enclosure (4) lists points of contact for assistance.

      (3) It must be recognized that, with some people, suicidal intent is very difficult to identify or predict, even for a mental health professional. Some suicides may occur even in units with the best leadership climate and most efficient intervention and suicide prevention programs.

   b. Once identified as being at increased risk of suicidal behavior, military personnel, with or without their permission, will be referred to the appropriate medical treatment facility and tracked by the unit commander to ensure problem resolution.

   c Civilian employees identified to be at increased risk will be encouraged to seek assistance from appropriate civilian agencies. If there is reasonable concern that self-harm may be imminent then the situation should be immediately reported to the Installation Police Department and to a military or civilian physician or State mental health emergency worker. Enclosure (4) lists points of contact. Reference (d) provides police officers, acting under a physician’s or State mental health emergency worker’s advice, the authority to take into custody and to transport for evaluation, by ambulance or other suitable means, any person thought to be at risk for suicidal behavior.

   d. Critical incidents, such as suicides or the accidental deaths of workmates, not only affect the victim and his/her family; they potentially affect all who knew the person or who were exposed to the event involving their death. To assist commands in coping with the predictable emotional upheaval in these stressing situations, command consultations and critical incident stress debriefings are available from the Naval Medical Clinic, Pearl Harbor per enclosure (3).

6. Assistance. Enclosure (4) lists applicable military and civilian points of contact.

ENCLOSURE 1 [to the preceding instruction]


   1. The information in this enclosure is recommended for audiences at all levels and is intended to promote early intervention and reduce the risk of suicidal behavior.

   2. Suicidal behavior is defined as any active behavior with intent to kill or harm oneself. This includes suicidal gestures (suicidal behavior with no serious consequences), attempts (suicidal behavior with serious or potentially serious consequences), and completed suicides. Suicidal ideation (thoughts) can escalate to suicidal behavior if not appropriately managed.

   3. Statistics and Facts Associated with Suicide in the U.S. and in the Navy

      a. Suicidal behavior is represented in all sectors of U.S. society, including the Navy; 12.1 out of 100,000 population commit suicide, 900 out of 100,000 population (.9%) attempt suicide and an estimated 10,000 out of 100,000 population (10%) have serious suicidal thoughts. The suicide rate in the Navy is approximately 11 out of 100,000 active duty population with the greatest number occurring in the 25-34 year-old age group. For the U.S., the suicide rate for the 25-34 year-old age group is approximately 16.3 per 100,000 population. For the same group in the Navy the rate is approximately 12.7 per 100,000 population. Rates of suicide in age-race matched males are lower in the military than in civilian communities. For females, however the rates are higher.

      b. Over the past three decades there has been no significant change in the rate of those who commit suicide (about 12 of 100,000 population); however, during this period the suicidal rates of 15-24 year-olds has tripled. The 15-24 cohort constitutes the majority of manpower in the military. Nationally, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death. In persons 14 to 25 years of age it is the third leading cause of death and, among college students, it is second.

      c. Approximately 80% of all suicidal behavior is linked to substance abuse and addiction, primarily alcohol. By decreasing inhibition or impairing judgment, chemical intoxication may turn an ambivalently conceived gesture into a completed act.

      d. A suicidal crisis, i.e., the wish to kill oneself, occurs only for a limited period of time (average 72 hours) but is subject to recurrence. Many suicides occur several weeks after apparent improvement.

      e. Most suicidal persons have consulted a physician within 6 months preceding death; 10% have done so the week before committing suicide. ‘A general physician sees an average of 6 seriously suicidal patients per year. Suicide prevention agencies see only 3-6% of those who kill themselves.

      f. Men commit suicide three times as frequently as women and, women attempt suicide three times as frequently as men. Men use more lethal means than women.

      g. Approximately 60% of all active duty suicides occur by gunshot and small arms.

      h. Within the military there are two peaks of increased risk: within the first few months of service and within the last few years before retirement. The most common precipitant for suicide among Navy personnel is difficulty in a relationship (divorce or break-up, separation) or family problems. The second most common precipitant is difficulty on the job and with the Navy.

      i. In the Navy 48% of suicides occur among E-51s and below. This group comprises only 33% of the Navy. Approximately 77% of suicide attempts, however, occur among pay grades E-1 to E-3, mostly within the first year of service.

4. Stress, Depression, Hopelessness, and Suicide

   a. In trying to understand why people kill themselves, it is tempting to look only at the source of stress in their lives. While attention to stress management will have a positive impact on a person’s mental health, stress alone does not cause suicide. Stress is a normal part of life. While people who commit suicide are particularly susceptible to stress, most people are capable of surviving stress through awareness and application of stress reduction strategies such as those suggested in enclosure (2).

   b. Actually, most people think about suicide at some time during their lives. Usually they find these thoughts are temporary and that things do get better. Generally, it is a combination of events and reactions that lead a person to believe suicide is the only way out.

   c. Depression is considered to be a contributing factor in most suicides. It is often confused with ordinary unhappiness. Sadness and an occasional "case of the blues" are normal emotions common to everyone. To be unhappy is to be sad or discontented when things go wrong; it does not involve a loss of perspective. Being depressed is a mood which affects the person’s basic emotional disposition, determining how people experience and perceive themselves and their surroundings. Symptoms of depression include:

      (1) Poor appetite or significant weight loss or increased appetite or significant weight gain.

      (2) Change in sleep habits, either excessive sleep or an inability to sleep.

      (3) Behavioral agitation or a slowing of movement.

      (4) Loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities or decreases in sexual drive.

      (5) Loss of energy, fatigue.

      (6) Complaints or evidence of diminished ability to think or concentrate.

      (7) Feelings of worthlessness, self-reproach, or excessive guilt.

      (8) Withdrawal from family and friends.

      (9) Drastic mood swings.

      (10) Sudden change in behavior.

   d. Depression is essentially a reaction to stress. Hence, depression is a mood that can occur to anyone at any time. It is estimated that at least one half the adult U.S. population has been depressed at least one time or another. At any one time it is estimated at least nine million Americans are in need of professional help. The majority of these are not aware of their depression.

   e. Depression can be viewed as an inevitable part of living. A series of major changes (e.g., promotion, marital separation, graduation of child in the home, financial loss) for better or worse, is apt to produce some degree of depression in most people. Change of any type, if it involves something or someone of importance to the individual, can be a catalyst for depression. The process of growing up and growing older involves a series of changes; every transitional phase of life, from childhood to marriage to old age, requires some degree of giving up, of letting go. In order to move successfully from one phase to the next the person must be able to experience depression in a direct and meaningful way. However, when the symptoms listed above persist over a month, professional help is needed.

   f. Considerable variation exists with regard to what degree people are susceptible to external influences. Some are highly sensitive to what goes on around them; others are not. For those who are, the environment can have a profound effect on mood. Their world may regularly confirm a healthy sense of self-esteem, allow for the expression of feelings, and provide them with an atmosphere of hope. on the other hand, if their environment provides no personal support, prevents them from becoming self-reliant, repeatedly stirs up hostility and at the same time blocks its release, provokes unnecessary guilt or causes them to feel lonely and rejected, a high incidence rate of depression can result.

   g. Suicidal behavior typically becomes an option to a person when they perceive their predicament as hopeless and, in their eyes, the potential for being someone who matters has been exhausted. Hopelessness has been associated with higher levels of suicidal intent. High hopelessness during any one life experience may be predictive of higher hopelessness during a later episode and thus, may lead to eventual suicide.

   h. Feelings of hopelessness and low self-esteem can have many causes:

      (1) Break up of a close relationship with a loved one or difficulties in interpersonal relationships with family or close friends

      (2) Death of a loved one, spouse, child, parent, sibling, friend, or pet

      (3) Worry about job or school performance and concerns about failure or doing less well than one hoped or expected

      (4) Loss of support systems or emotional safety which comes from moving to a new environment

      (5) Loss of social or financial status

      (6) The compounding and disorienting effects of drugs and/or alcohol

   i. The problems of stress overload, depression, and hopelessness are temporary issues which can be overcome. Suicide, on the other hand, is a needless and permanent solution to these short-term problems.

5. Suicidal Behavior: Fables and Facts. Another way to look at the subject of suicide is to consider some common misconceptions:

   Fable: People who talk about suicide rarely attempt or commit suicide.

   Fact: Nearly 80% of those who attempt or commit suicide give some warning of their intentions. When someone talks about committing suicide, he or she may be giving a warning that should not be ignored.

   Fable: Talking to someone about their suicidal feelings will cause them to commit suicide.

   Fact: Asking someone about their suicidal feelings usually makes the person feel relieved that someone finally recognized their emotional pain, and they will feel safer talking about it.

   Fable: All suicidal people want to die and there is nothing that can be done about it.

   Fact: Most suicidal people are undecided about living or dying. They may gamble with death, leaving it to others to rescue them. Frequently they call for help before and after a suicide attempt.

   Fable: Suicide is an act of impulse with no previous planning.

   Fact: Most suicides are carefully planned and thought about for weeks.

   Fable: Once a person is suicidal, he or she is suicidal forever.

   Fact: Most suicidal people are that way for only a brief period in their lives. If the attempter receives the proper assistance and support, he or she will probably never be suicidal again. Only about 10 per cent of attempters later complete the act.

   Fable: Improvement in a suicidal person means the danger is over.

   Fact: Most suicides occur within about three months following the beginning of improvement, when the individual has the energy to act on his or her morbid thoughts and feelings. The desire to escape life may be so great the idea of suicide represents relief from a hopeless situation. Often, a period of calm may follow a decision to commit suicide.

   Fable: Because it includes the holiday season, December has a high suicide rate.

   Fact: Nationally, December has the lowest suicide rate of any month. During the holiday season, the depressed person feels some sort of belonging and feels things may get better. As spring comes and their depression does not lift, the comparison of the newness and rebirth of spring and their own situation can produce overt self-destructive behavior.

   Fable: People seeing a mental health professional don’t commit suicide.

   Fact: People in the care of professionals do commit suicide. Never assume the person has divulged his or her suicidal feelings to the professional and is receiving proper attention. If the person seems suicidal, take action; don’t assume it is under control.

6. High Risk Factors Associated with Suicidal Behavior

   a. Personal History:

      (1) Previous suicidal behavior or wide mood swings

      (2) Personality Disorder: borderline, immature (impulsive behavior), antisocial or compulsive

      (3) Recent loss or anniversary of a major loss

      (4) Living alone or not having close friends

      (5) Unstable relationships: multiple, short-term or superficial

      (6) Unexpected physical disability

   b. Family History:

      (1) Unstable childhood and adolescence: abuse, neglect or rejection

      (2) Close relationship to someone who committed suicide

      (3) Mentally ill, self-absorbed or competitive spouse or parent

      (4) Serious family discord or enmeshed family

      (5) Lack of roots or contact with family

   c. Educational and Vocational History:

      (1) Unstable school, job or financial history

      (2) Lack of extracurricular activities, hobbies

      (3) Trouble with the authorities (past or present)

      (4) Change of specialty/rate or college major three or more times.

      (5) Disparity between aspirations and accomplishments

7. Early Signs (potential indicators of a person in distress):

   a. Academic or Work Performance Reactions:

      (1) Inability to concentrate or attend to details

      (2) Confusion about duties and priorities

      (3) Indecision, disorganization and procrastination

      (4) Increased errors and decline in productivity

      (5) Accident proneness

   b. Physical Reactions:

      (1) Muscle tension and tension headaches

      (2) Fatigue and exhaustion

      (3) Pounding or racing heart beats and increased blood pressure

      (4) Shortness of breath, sighing or hyperventilation

      (5) Increased perspiration

      (6) Changes in digestive system function

      (7) Decreased immunity to communicable diseases

      (8) Insomnia or lack of sleep

      (9) Slowed reaction

      (10) Visits to sick bay with vague symptoms

   c Psychological and Behavioral Reactions:

      (1) Frequent irritability, frustration, anger, explosiveness over minor incidents

      (2) Impulsiveness, non-conformity or apathy

      (3) Becoming very compulsive and rigid

      (4) Anxiousness, panic, inappropriate emotionality when communicating

      (5) Guilt, self-criticism and loss of confidence

      (6) Feeling persecuted or preoccupation with unreasonable fears

      (7) Forgetfulness and disorientation

      (8) Misjudgment of people’s motivation

      (9) Desire to cry, run away or withdraw

      (10) Denial of problems

      (11) Not wanting to stop, slow down or take a breather

      (12) Does not tolerate or accept praise

      (13) Increased use of caffeine, nicotine alcohol or drugs

      (14) Neglect of healthy habits and hobbies

      (15) Deterioration of financial state, accumulation of debts beyond means to pay

8. Late Signs (indicators of potentially imminent suicidal behavior) include the worsening of the above early signs and:

   a. Talking about or hinting at suicide or homicide, making specific plans to commit suicide and to gain access to lethal means

   b. Extreme alcohol and/or drug abuse

   c. Obvious depression, despondency (feeling helpless, hopeless and worthless)

   d. Disinterest and displeasure in previously enjoyable activities

   e. Sudden euphoria or apathy without corresponding improvement in circumstances

   f. Sudden generosity or giving away of valued possessions

   g. Withdrawal from family and friends

   h. Making arrangements as though for final departure: unexpected acquisition of a will, life insurance policy, talking to workmates as if he/she were saying goodbye

   i. Obsession with death, sad music or sad poetry. Themes of death in letters or art work.

   j. Defeatist and fatalistic statements: "You may be sorry when I’m gone." "No one cares or understands me." "I don’t care if I die." "It’s not worth it any more."

9. What To Do When You Suspect Someone is at Risk for Suicidal Behavior:

   a. Take the situation seriously. It is easy to predict suicidal behavior when a person shows late signs as listed above. However, signs from many people are very subtle. You may have as little to go on as simply a disturbing feeling, or an overheard "Goodbye" instead of "Goodnight." Trust your intuition. The most important thing is to not ignore the issue. Remember the danger of embarrassment through overreaction is not nearly as great as the danger of death through failure to act.

   b. Talk freely to the person about their thoughts and feelings. Remember most suicidal persons are ambivalent about suiciding and want to talk about it. You may discount your intuition and/or the seriousness of what you heard because the person "acted so casual" when talking about or alluding to suicide. Recognize this casualness for what it most probably represents: the person is acting casual for your benefit and is trying to leave an opening for saying he wasn’t serious, depending on your reaction. Once you are alerted to the clues that may constitute a "cry for help," you can help in several ways:

      (1) Express your genuine concern by talking clearly and calmly about the situation. Share your objective observations and tell the person you are available and want to help.

      (2) Ask about feelings/thoughts and inquire about their meanings. Ask specifically if the person is thinking about suicide. Your willingness to talk this way can be a big relief to the person, who probably feared you would be judgmental or would try to cut off communication and leave. Your acceptance may give him or her hope at a time when hope is exactly what is needed. Some examples of questions to ask:

         (a) How long have you been feeling this way?

         (b) Do you know why you feel this way?

         (c) Have things gotten so bad that you are thinking about harming yourself

         (d) Have you thought about how you would end your life?

         (e) Do you have a plan?

      (3) Listen seriously and understand the problem. Avoid judgments in the process of responding to what you hear. People confronted by a suicide threat or similar statement often respond with something like, "Think how much better off you are than most people; you should be thankful for how lucky you are." This not only ends the conversation, it compounds the problem by potentially adding guilt. It is not helpful and may even be harmful.

      (4) In addition to offering a sense of relief and hope, the questions you ask will yield information that will be valuable in helping a professional evaluate the seriousness of the suicide risk. In general, the more specific the thoughts and plans of suicide, the graver the risks. If a person has purchased a weapon with the specific intent of ending his life there can be little doubt of the seriousness and immediacy of the risk. If on the other hand, he or she has vague notions of ending his life but no concrete plan, the risk probably is not imminent. This distinction, however, is only a general principle. There are many variations and exceptions. So don’t assume the risk is not great because the plan is not specific. That evaluation must be left up to a professional.

      (5) Some additional points to keep in mind:

         (a) Do not avoid talking about suicide.

         (b) Refrain from using simple advice or clichés.

         (c) Do not analyze the person’s motives.

         (d) Do not argue or contradict.

         (e) Do not try to shock or challenge.

         (f) Do not agree to be sworn to secrecy.

         (g) Confiscate weapons or other means of suicide if obtainable.

      (6) Encourage positive action aimed at relieving the pain. Help the person come up with positive solutions. Solu-tions can include many possibilities including working to improve the home environment through couple or family therapy, developing more of a balance between work and recreation, a vigorous exercise program, new ways to relax, hobbies, sports, etc. The important points are that the person identifies it as something potentially useful to him or her and that it is possible to accomplish.

   A Seek professional helps. No matter what else you do, or what your discussion leads to, or how much the person denies the intention to commit suicide or tries to assure you he or she wouldn’t really go through with it, make sure he or she gets professional help. When the signs of suicide are there, professional help is needed. Encourage the person to get help. If he or she refuses, take the initiative yourself and tell the person what you plan to do. Explain the situation to his or her superiors if military, or explain the situation to a reliable family member. Consult with medical personnel for guidance.

   B if the danger of suicide seems immediate, does not leave the person alone. Your presence may be the only thing preventing a tragedy.

   C Suicide prevention is not especially difficult to achieve. It requires the concern of a friend (or someone who cares enough to act as a friend), the knowledge to recognize the signs of danger, the willingness to talk openly and candidly, and the initiative to make sure professional help is obtained. More generally, it requires that old attitudes of treating suicide as a taboo give way to an acceptance of suicide as a problem that can be dealt with frankly and openly.

   7. Your knowledge of the few principles of suicide prevention presented in this enclosure, and your willingness to apply this knowledge might save someone’s life. By sharing this knowledge with others, you might also break down some of the misconceptions and myths that have kept suicides from being prevented. The more people who understand and accept suicide for what it is - a needless and preventable cause of death - the greater the chance suicide will eventually be removed from the list of leading causes of death.



Source: Center for Disease Control (CDC) Mortality and Morbidity Report (MMWR) November 26, 1999 / 48(46);1053-1057

Title: Suicide Prevention Among Active Duty Air Force Personnel -- United States, 1990-1999

[NOTE: Figures, Tables, Charts and other visual references have not been copied from the CDC MMWR to this Exhibit.]

   During 1990-1994, suicide accounted for 23% of all deaths among active duty U.S. Air Force (USAF) personnel and was the second leading cause of death (after unintentional injuries).

   During those years, the annual suicide rate among active duty USAF personnel increased significantly (p less than 0.01) from 10.0 to 16.4 suicides per 100,000 members. In 1995, senior USAF leaders initiated prevention programs in several commands because of the increasing suicide rate. In May 1996, an in-depth study by a team of medical and nonmedical civilian and military experts was initiated to produce a comprehensive, community-wide prevention strategy that viewed suicide not only as a medical but a USAF problem, thus addressing overall social, behavior, and health issues.

   The plan was implemented across the entire USAF during 1996-1997. This report describes protective and prevention strategies and summarizes the study findings, which indicate that a substantial decline in the suicide rate was associated with the community-wide program.

   The team's suicide prevention strategy encompassed nearly all the USAF community (e.g., investigative agencies, military justice, and prevention and treatment services) and focused on reducing suicide by emphasizing early interventions, and strengthening protective factors (e.g., a sense of belonging and caring, effective coping skills, and policies that promote help-seeking behavior). These goals correspond to recommendations made by the United Nations (UN) and World Health Organization (WHO) to governments and local communities in developing suicide prevention strategies. The initiatives were divided into three categories corresponding to areas identified by other prevention programs: adapting CDC recommendations for youth suicide prevention to the USAF adult population, restructuring prevention services offered on USAF installations, and establishing a central surveillance database for fatal and nonfatal self-injuries.

Adapting CDC Recommendations

   The team established USAF requirements for annual suicide prevention and awareness training, which was provided to approximately 80% of USAF members. Supervisors and leaders within each military unit, medical providers, attorneys, and chaplains received concentrated training as "gatekeepers" whose role was to channel persons at risk to appropriate agencies. In 1996, the USAF began to administer a comprehensive health questionnaire, including items about mental health status, when USAF members enrolled in the military health-care plan; an abbreviated version was subsequently administered annually. Questionnaire data were used to determine when referral to a health-care provider was indicated.

   The USAF Chiefs of Staff sent service-wide electronic messages, recognizing the courage and sound judgment of persons who confronted difficult issues and sought professional help (e.g., marital, family, legal, financial, mental health, and spiritual counseling). These messages also stated that military leaders must ensure that members facing substantial stress receive the care and support of their military unit (i.e., local community), even when the stress stemmed from violating community norms (i.e., Uniform Code of Military Justice [UCMJ]). The team also established policies that required any USAF agency investigating a member to coordinate with unit leaders to ensure that the leaders carried out their gatekeeping role.

Restructuring of Prevention Services

   Prevention services on all USAF installations were restructured by establishing a limited psychotherapist-patient privilege to protect members charged under the UCMJ. Mental health providers were mandated to initiate community-based primary prevention, and the USAF integrated the services of the six agencies involved in prevention services (mental health, family support centers, child and youth development, health and wellness centers, chaplains, and family advocacy). The six agencies in each geographic community were required to conduct an assessment of the risk for suicide and to develop a coordinated prevention plan with measurable goals.


   Gathering suicide data from the USAF population is facilitated by standardized data systems that track each member. Each active duty member's death is investigated by the USAF Office of Special Investigations, a forensic agency autonomous from the local command authority. Since 1997, USAF suicide data (completions, attempts, and gestures) have been collected in a database that includes demographics, details of the events, use of prevention services before the event, and associated psychological, social, behavior, and economic factors.

   From 1994 to 1998, the suicide rate among USAF members decreased significantly, from 16.4 suicides per 100,000 members to 9.4 (p less than 0.002). On the basis of the first eight months of 1999, the 1999 estimated rate is 2.2 suicides per 100,000 members--approximately 80% lower than the lowest annual rate since 1980.

Reported by: DA Litts, K Moe, CH Roadman, R Janke, J Miller, Suicide Integrated Product Team, United States Air Force, Dept of Defense. Div of Violence Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, CDC.

Editorial Note:

   During 1994-1995, suicide prevention became a USAF priority. Initially, the focus of prevention activities occurred within several major commands; however, this approach was succeeded in 1996 by a servicewide program, whose goals correspond to recommendations made by the UN and WHO to governments and local communities in developing suicide prevention strategies (2). These efforts were temporally associated with a substantial decrease in the suicide rates among active USAF personnel. Suicide rates in the other military services do not demonstrate the sustained decline over the same period (U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Marines, unpublished data, 1999).

   The USAF's approach to suicide prevention emphasized the role of the entire community, not only health care, in reducing and preventing factors thought to contribute to suicide. It also included components that promoted protective factors such as social networks. Readiness to address the suicide problem was established quickly because the leaders involved were easily identified and had substantial influence over the community. A program of education and awareness training for all personnel, combined with integrated prevention services in every community, set out to modify the culture of the USAF community. Initiatives are ongoing, established by official policy requiring annual reporting of performance objectives.

   Evaluation of the program's effectiveness and its generalizability to other groups is subject to at least two limitations. First, although the decline in the suicide rate among USAF personnel corresponds temporally with the interventions, a causal relation between the decline and the program has not been established conclusively nor have components that might have been responsible for the decline been identified. Second, differences exist in the characteristics of active USAF personnel and the U.S. civilian population. All members of the USAF community have completed secondary school, are employed and housed, and have comprehensive health-care benefits, including unlimited mental health care. Since 1974, members have been screened for mental illness before entry. Use of illicit drugs, a risk factor for suicide, is approximately 90% less frequent than in the civilian population after adjusting for age and sex. All members have a commander or a first sergeant whose job is to be interested in each member's health and well being.

   This study highlights that suicide is a preventable health problem and demonstrates the importance of using multiple agencies to address the issue. It also indicates that a communitywide, multiple-strategy program can be planned and implemented and can contribute to reducing self-directed violence. The USAF has assigned a team to monitor the ongoing intervention and surveillance activities and to recommend modifications as needed. The USAF suicide prevention strategy should be tested in other occupation-related communities, such as law enforcement or investigative agencies, to determine whether the programs can be effective in other populations.




Free ebook: A Grandpa's Notebook: Essays, memoirs, stories and models for grandparents and other older adults to enhance intergenerational interaction and communication. The ebook may be freely downloaded from the Internet. Includes permission to freely reproduce and disseminate copies for noncommercial purposes. Copyright © 1987, 1992, 1994 by Meyer Moldeven. Digital copies may be downloaded at:

A few of many reviews in media:

   BOOKLIST (Book Evaluation Journal of the American Library Association) November 15, 1987: "Moldeven, a 70-year old grandfather [85 in 2002] turned author and publisher, sets a wonderful example and shares many practical lessons on keeping in touch with grandchildren in these times of mobile families. When it is impossible to see or talk to grandchildren as often as one would like, Moldeven suggests writing them stories. His book offers general tips on getting started along with 25 sample stories. The author emphasizes simplicity and imagination in the creation of plots and illustrations. For grandparents who lack confidence in their writing or picture-making abilities, Moldeven suggests working with photographs or magazine pictures and devising custom-made stories from classic fables or folk tales. This encouraging, easy-to-read guide for grandparents (near and faraway) can also be used as a resource for senior citizen's projects.

   The Rocky Mount Evening & Sun Telegram, August 23, 1987 Rocky Mount, North Carolina "This book was written for grandparents, primarily; but parents and kindergarten and primary teachers will find the techniques and stories of value in relating to young children.... This supremely useful work, while designed for the too-far away relative, offers exciting possibilities for intergenerational communication, even if the family is settled in one community, next door, or even in the same house. It has the additional virtue of promoting activities that encourage the grandchild toward reading and writing skills, strengthening ties, and establishing values easily taught through family history and traditions."

   A vast store of practical knowledge and cultural lore languishes in almost every family, especially among its elders, more than ready to be passed along to succeeding generations. An important source for ideas and models for grandparents to meet the needs - and the yearnings - of this era's grandchildren and children generally is in the experiences of older adults. It is not up to our young grandchildren to say what in our life's experiences might be useful or enlightening for them. If it is, how might they draw it out of us?

----- Mike Moldeven


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