131st Bomb Wing Civilian Wins National Award

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Joshua Colligan
  • 131st Bomb Wing

Bethany Harris, who serves as the 131st Bomb Wing Director of Psychological Health, was recently awarded the 2022 Air Force Association Outstanding Air Force Civilian Employee of the Year Award in the Civilian Program Manager category for her dedication to the servicemembers of the 131st Bomb Wing.

“It’s pretty unbelievable and amazing to me to have that kind of recognition,” Harris said. “It makes me very appreciative and humbled. I feel such a loyalty to the 131st. To have somebody in the unit who took the time to write that up and put me forward for that, that part means a lot to me, as well.”

Harris serves in several capacities. Many people know her from suicide prevention or resiliency training classes and events. These face-to-face interactions often serve as an introduction to her for Airmen, and they act as a crucial first step in creating a bond that allows Airmen to feel comfortable talking to her afterward.

“To me, what’s been most beneficial is my longevity. It takes a while to build trust,” said Harris, who joined the unit in 2016. “Being out and about, letting people see you, when I do trainings, when I do resiliency kinds of things, those are the things that build relationships with people. Then that lends itself to trust, and then they feel more comfortable maybe talking to you about very personal kinds of things.”

This is Harris’ first position directly serving servicemembers. But she was hardly a newcomer to military life.

Her father and uncle both served in the 131st Bomb Wing; her husband served in the Navy before they married; her son also served in the Navy. During her son’s service time, she gained first-hand experience of how a deployment can impact a family.

“He deployed twice with the Navy, so I think I certainly understand having him be far away from us. I understand what deployments feel like,” she said.

Her ability to relate to servicemembers has not gone unnoticed by her peers in the field.

“Bethany is a genuine person and has just an amazing compacity to connect with people. That’s what makes her great at her job is that she connects with anyone and everyone,” said 131st Bomb Wing Chaplain Lt. Col. Sam Smith. “She deeply cares about Airmen. I see her all the time, and she’s a magnet for people. She’s just able to relate, and her ability to relate gives her the ability to connect with people.”

The combination of her skills and passion have taken her to the top, and she has enjoyed the ride.

“This job is important. It’s very challenging at times; it’s very satisfying at times,” she said. “I tell people all the time, ‘It’s the best job I’ve ever had.’ And I really, truly mean that.”

The 131st Bomb Wing has a DPH at Whiteman and Jefferson Barracks. To contact Harris, 660-687-7407. If you need assistance at Jefferson Barracks, contact Dr. Kimberly Barragan at 314-527-8280.