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179th Director of Psychological Health recognized at Pentagon

The Air National Guard (ANG) Directors of Psychological Health Region 3 Outstanding Performer award was presented to Mrs. Vivian Winters by Maj. Gen. Gretchen Dunkelberger, ANG assistant to the surgeon general, at an awards and recognition ceremony at the Pentagon, Aug. 20, 2015. Winters is the 179th Airlift Wing Director of Psychological Health and serves airmen of the Ohio Air National Guard. (courtesy photo)

The Air National Guard (ANG) Directors of Psychological Health Region 3 Outstanding Performer award was presented to Mrs. Vivian Winters by Maj. Gen. Gretchen Dunkelberger, ANG assistant to the surgeon general, at an awards and recognition ceremony at the Pentagon, Aug. 20, 2015. Winters is the 179th Airlift Wing Director of Psychological Health and serves airmen of the Ohio Air National Guard. (courtesy photo)

MANSFIELD, Ohio -- -- The Air National Guard (ANG) Directors of Psychological Health Region 3 Outstanding Performer award was presented to Mrs. Vivian Winters by Maj. Gen. Gretchen Dunkelberger, ANG assistant to the surgeon general, at an awards and recognition ceremony at the Pentagon, Aug. 20, 2015.

Winters serves as the 179th Airlift Wing (AW) Director of Psychological Health, for the Air National Guard unit in Mansfield, Ohio. Winters also serves as an adjunct professor in the Human Service program at North Central State College and Mount Vernon Nazarene University in the social work program. Winters earned a Master of Social Work from The Ohio State University and a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Cincinnati in addictions. In the State of Ohio, she is a licensed independent social worker with supervision credentials and a licensed chemical dependency counselor. Her credentials speak to her expertise, but her actions speak to her character.

Winters has a caring heart and has always aligned her career with taking care of people. She spent 18 years working in the emergency room. Before assuming the position at the 179 AW, she was the Adult Program Director at The Center for Individual and Family Services and at New Beginnings Recovery Services.

Her commitment to putting people first is welcomed in the Air National Guard, an organization that stresses the importance of taking care of one another with its "Wingman" concept. Airmen look out for one another, on and off duty, watching for signs of distress and offering help when it is needed. Sometimes, when life gets tough, having a wingman to talk to; putting things in perspective can make all the difference. Members of the Air Force are never alone; from peers to supervisors to leadership, airmen are surrounded by fellow wingmen. Winters believes in the wingman concept and challenges members to embody it, saying "Do you ever take a moment and wonder what your legacy will be? All it takes is one person to make change in the world. One person to listen, show empathy, compassion and be nonjudgmental, are you that wingman?"

Unfortunately, the wingman system can't detect every problem a person may be battling. What if they are not comfortable talking to their wingmen about certain things? For those of spiritual faith, the chaplain's doors are always open and many find what they need there. All members need to understand how important it is to utilize all available resources when facing challenges; they need to go talk to Winters.

Her position as the Director of Psychological Health may seem intimidating to some, they may feel that going to see "The Doc" is reserved for someone with serious mental issues. Although she is educated and prepared to handle an airman who may be battling a serious mental issue, it is not her sole purpose. Winters doesn't wish to judge anyone or any situation. She doesn't seek to diagnose airmen as unfit for duty. Winters is a person who loves people. She truly cares to listen and has expert advice and an armory of resources to steer you in the right direction. Winters said "I share with everyone that I have a job but I do not consider it to be work.  It is a very humbling experience to be able to walk with our members through their journey knowing that each and every one of our airman fight for my freedom every day. That is what empowers me to keep coming back.  My goal in life is to love God and love all people." She has helped many who have come to her with problems big and small, and people have noticed.

At the Pentagon, Dunkelberger awarded Winters for the contributions she has made and recognized her for standing up a Community Action Information Board (CAIB) and Integrated Delivery System (IDS) at the 179th AW and assisting in the set up process at the 121st Air Refueling Wing (ARW) and the 127th Wing in Selfridge, Michigan; two other air national guard installations. Winters streamlined reporting methods for agencies to help leadership track trends. She enthusiastically provided backup support for the 121st ARW during year-long manning shortage. While there, she developed a screening program to assist in identifying mental health symptoms in deployed service members and then established a process to start early identification methods and timely triage to get them the help they need.

When asked how it felt to be recognized at the Pentagon, Winters said "Although I feel honored to be recognized for my work, I would like to share a message with our members, a quote by Samuel Smiles, 'We learn wisdom from failure much more than from success. We often discover what will do, by finding out what will not do; and probably he who never made a mistake, never made a discovery."
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