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Air Force social worker living her American dream

  • Published
  • By Merrie Schillter-Lowe
  • 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Born in Poland and raised in Denmark and Germany, Capt. Malika Moretti, 60th Medical Group clinical social worker, always had a desire to live in the United States. 

“Being a little girl, my dream was to move to the U.S.,” said Moretti.  “The U.S. was great, so advanced and so much more than what we had in Europe.  I wanted to see what was possible.  Now I’ve actually been able to fulfill that dream.”

In December 2017, Moretti became the dedicated mental health provider for the 60th Security Forces Squadron at Travis Air Force Base, California.   

“This is what I feel connected to,” said Moretti.  

Before her assignment to Travis, Moretti was a civilian social worker at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, assisting security forces and military police from all services to become more resilient.  Prior to that, she was a civilian social worker performing the same function at Tripler Army Medical Center and Scofield Barracks in Hawaii.

“The security forces (at Travis AFB) reached out and I was the first to volunteer since I had been with the Army in San Antonio and had some idea of what I wanted to do with the program,” said Moretti. 

Having a dedicated mental health provider proved to be prescient March 21 after a driver from Sausalito, California, crashed through the Travis AFB main gate and died inside his burning vehicle.   

“I got the call at 7 p.m., and five minutes later, I was at the gate accessing first responders, making sure they were OK,” said Moretti.  “I wanted to make sure they would have access to care the next day or later.”  

Understanding the emotional shock of witnessing the driver’s death, Moretti talked to first responders about some of the thoughts and behaviors they might experience and the resources available to assist them.

“From my perspective, her service – and that of her team – was invaluable the night of March 21 and in its aftermath,” said Col. Lance Clark, 60th Mission Support Group commander.  “She took care of those who spend their lives taking care of others.  That's the essence of a leader – leaving others better than you found them.”

Moretti assisted the gate guards at the scene and on the following day, said Senior Master Sgt. Erin Rose, 60th Security Forces Squadron operations superintendent. 

“Not only did she listen to them, she came to guard mount the day after the incident to check on them,” said Rose.  “She also did something that I had not seen before.  She came to the gate a few days after the incidence and watched those same Airmen work for several hours in the same location where the trauma had occurred.”

Since Sept. 1, 2001, Moretti has wanted to serve the military and give back in some way.

“When 9/11 happened, and I saw the courage and strength of the Americans and how they came together, I was touched,” said Morretti.  “I’m still touched.  I wanted to be part of this.”

That same day, Moretti understood her mission.   

“I decided to go back to school and get my degree in social work and join the military,” she said.   

In 2012, Moretti completed graduate school and participated in a pilot program with the Army as a civilian social worker embedded with the military police in Hawaii.   She moved to Texas a few years later and became an Air Force case manager.  She was commissioned in January 2015 and arrived that summer at Travis. 

Morretti believes that access to mental health care is very important, especially for young security forces Airmen. 

“We have a lot of 18- and 19-year-olds who are carrying weapons.  That is stressful,” she said.  “They are exposed to traumatic situations that people their age don’t normally see – child abuse, domestic violence and suicide attempts.

“That’s why we are embedded with security forces,” said Moretti.  “It’s all about prevention and advocating for our patients to get them back to what they’re supposed to be doing – being 100 percent.  Being embedded with our defenders allows me to see what they are exposed to on a daily basis.”

Although she served military members as a civilian social worker, Moretti said the experience is different now that she’s wearing the uniform.

“My job doesn’t stop when I leave this office ... security forces can call me at any time,” she said.  “I feel like they are my Airmen, so I want to make sure they are OK.”

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