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NEWS | June 29, 2023

New Colorado National Guard directorate prioritizes serving its members

By Sgt. 1st Class Joseph K. VonNida, Colorado National Guard Public Affairs

Due to the unfortunate situation involving U.S. Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen at Fort Hood, Texas, in April 2020, U.S. President Joe Biden ordered the Secretary of Defense to establish an Independent Review Commission to end sexual assault in the military.

In conjunction with the IRC, the National Defense Authorization Act 2022 then directed the National Guard to implement a dedicated full-time Prevention Workforce between fiscal years 2022 and 2024. 

As a result, the Colorado National Guard received funding to hire seven new positions to establish Colorado’s Prevention Workforce and two new positions to expand sexual assault prevention and response.

U.S. Air Force Col. Carrie Worrell was appointed director of the Colorado National Guard’s first Joint Resiliency Directorate (J9) officially established Dec. 1, 2022. Together, Worrell and her deputy stood up a Resiliency Program for the CONG in less than three months. 

“Over the last five years, I have been a two-time group commander in the Colorado Air National Guard for both the Medical Group and the Mission Support Group; with that, I brought a commander’s perspective and experience to this new directorate,” Worrell said. “Throughout this process, I have tried to look through a commander’s lens, focusing on what I would want as an Airman, a family member or a leader to make the job easier.”

The CONG J9 consolidated and brought together 52 personnel from Colorado Air and Army National Guard staff under one umbrella in one central location.

“We established a work group, a combination of the human resources office, chief of joint staff, the chaplain, the CONG senior enlisted leader, our CONG interagency coordinator, and myself,” Worrell said. “We asked what are all of the programs that involve people and pulled them under this umbrella.”

These programs include the ministry team, the director of phycological health for Air, service member and Family Programs, sexual assault response coordinators and victim advocates, legal assistance, prevention specialists, the chief diversity officer, the state equal employment manager, the army drug testing program, and the substance abuse, suicide prevention, and resilience support program.

The consolidation has allowed collaboration amongst support resources and provides service members and their families access to prevention, intervention, response, and readiness services 24/7. Rather than searching for each resource separately, going from one office to another, or calling several different phone numbers, members seeking assistance can find all resources under one stop and through one phone number.

“The entities were in disparate locations across the CONG,” Worrell said. “But now that they are together, the collaboration that is happening is getting us into more of a proactive mindset.”

The collaborative effort is known as the Guard Resiliency Integration Team. Through GRIT, the J9 provides CONG members and their families the tools to persevere and thrive in the face of adversity on and off the battle space.

“I have been through challenging times, we all have, it is probably the one thing we all have in common.  When we face those challenging times that happen it’s difficult to focus on the mission and the job at hand if we’re thinking about the tough stuff we’re going through,” Worrell said. “The goal is to let us [the J9] help alleviate the pain and those challenges, let us help our service members and their families so that they can get back to the mission. I want them to know we have their backs, and this is the rationale as to why we are doing what we’re doing.”

Although the IRC directed and funded the implementation of the prevention program and expanded the sexual assault prevention and response program, how it was implemented was up to each individual state.

“Colorado is one of only a few states that chose to set up a J9 directorate,” Worrell said. “We were told to establish a prevention workforce, and J9 was a directive from our adjutant general”.

The work group had reached out to three other states with similar programs—Idaho, Nevada, and Vermont—for guidance and lessons learned.

“What we found is that we had the resources. However, they were not being adequately marketed to our service members, and there wasn’t an easy way to access the services. We needed one number to get people to the resources they needed quickly,” Worrell said.  “As a result, we established the helpline number  (866-333-8844) for quick and easy access to all of our resources.”

Worrell said the response to J9 and GRIT is more than what she expected.

“Our Airmen and Soldiers and their leadership have embraced this,” she said. “They see the value. We are actively marketing, and they are also seeking us out.”

In addition to marketing the program to Guard members and their families, the J9 is also working with the state for several legislative initiatives and with the behavioral health agency on how they can better partner with them.

“I think that the J9 helps our Citizen Airmen and Soldiers become a more resilient force, not only within the Colorado National Guard but also in their communities,” Worrell said. “It’s been really special watching this program develop.” 

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