JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – Chaplain (Capt.) Portmann Werner believes providing Airmen and Guardians with tools that strengthen their mental health and improves overall wellness is an important step toward reducing suicide rates in the military.
To deliver those tools, he has an idea for a video game that serves as a portal to a virtual world where players are presented with real-life situations and options for how they choose to respond. As one of eight finalists for the 2022 Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center Innovation Rodeo, he will pitch his idea to a panel of AFIMSC senior leaders on Aug. 19.
Originally from Denver, Colorado, Werner is a member of AFIMSC’s Chaplain Corps Division and serves as a mentor and proponent for the Air Force’s True North program. Additionally, he oversees the Management Internal Control Toolkit for chaplain programs across the Department of Defense enterprise.
We asked him a few questions about his idea, innovation and his thoughts about the AFIMSC Innovation Rodeo.
Q: What is the name of your idea?
Choose Your Adventure: Playing to Enhance and Save Lives.
Q: What is the problem you’re solving?
I want to find solutions that create a sense of purpose, reduce suicidal ideation, optimize human performance and manage depression, stress and talent.
Q: What is your solution to that problem?
Providing Airmen and Guardians with a video game that presents common life scenarios and offers choices in thoughts and actions for those scenarios. That way, they can see they have more options than they realize, feel like they have more control over their lives and learn consequences for their decisions.
Q: How did you come up with the idea?
While attending Air Force squadron officer school, I was doing an independent study on positive psychology and authentic happiness, and seeing how it’s being used in various military branches. I realized we are trying to teach something that is better as an experience, and what better way to teach choices than to choose your own adventure?
Q. How will your idea help the Air Force deliver installation and mission support capabilities, improve installations or support families in a better way?
Suicide is the most dangerous enemy to our Airmen and Guardians and 70% of suicide attempts and completions are preceded by a major life stressor within the last three months. Providing service members with choices for handling trauma gives them more hope. The game would also provide leadership scenarios based around different personality types.
Q. How does it feel to be selected as a finalist for the 2022 Innovation Rodeo?
I have been refining, revising and working with subject matter experts on this idea since 2019. The feeling that my vision might soon be realized is a huge relief.
Q. You’ll be spending a week in San Antonio, learning from leading innovators, collaborating with industry partners and networking with peers, senior leaders and innovation teams. What are you hoping to gain from that experience?
I am hoping to learn how to find different subject matter experts that can share their skills on this passion project so that the final product can be so much more than the sum of its parts.
Q: Why do you think innovation and a culture change that empowers Airmen and Guardians is important in today’s Air and Space Forces?
The Department of the Air Force is founded on innovation. It is founded on leaders telling us we can’t be our own branch. We strive to recruit the brightest, most diverse people from around the world to make us better.
Innovation allows for us to defeat our enemies in new and surprising ways. For me, depression and feeling alone are our enemies too. We can fly above their lies, fight them on our terms, and win over our own self-destructive habits; when we dream, the unimaginable can become reality.
The 2022 AFIMSC Innovation Rodeo will be streamed live on Aug. 19. For more information on the rodeo, visit https://www.afimsc.af.mil/innovationrodeo/.