Commentary

March 14, 2013

Resiliency combats challenges

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Commentary by Retired Chief Master Sergeant Vincent L. Howard
355 Fighter Wing Community Support Coordinator
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christine Griffiths)
Members of the Desert Lightning Team cheer on a fellow Airman during the Wingman Warrior Day 5K at here last year.

The challenges faced by Airmen are many. Beyond the immediate physical threats generated by deployments, our Airmen must deal with the mental and social effects of being in a high-intensity, stressful and dangerous environment, sometimes for months at a time.

These same deployments often force spouses to become “single parents,” due to the myriad of challenges deployments produce. For our Airmen and civilians alike, service to our nation can often result in homesickness, loneliness, culture shock, undesirable assignments, long hours, the stress of learning a new job, the departure and rotation of close friends and a myriad of other stressors. All of these factors stress the need for resiliency. But with every new program, there are questions that must be answered.

Why have we initiated another Air Force “program” that will take time away from our critical mission priorities?

The Air Force is not instituting a program. Rather, our great service is acknowledging a culture that will inspire Airmen to view difficulties as challenges, not paralyzing events or a negative reflection on their self-worth.

A culture of resiliency is not PowerPoint slides and canned training, but an environment that results in increased commitment to yourself, your personal and professional relationships, your friendships and the great nation you serve. Resilient behavior means that you feel more empowered, powerful, and increasingly confident. Resiliency is not an Air Force program; it is a significant, positive quality that makes for better Airmen, better wingmen and better citizens.

 

Why are we investing our precious time, attention, and energy to such a seemingly common sense endeavor? 

We are investing our time to this effort, because there is true greatness in each of us, and the United States Air Force cannot afford to let any of us forget it, regardless of the challenges we face or the failures we seem to encounter. Embracing resiliency teaches us to always “get up” and keeps us on the lookout for our fellow Airmen.

Michael Jordan locked himself in his bedroom and cried when he was cut from his high school basketball team, but he got up. Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper for lacking imagination and having no original ideas, but he got up. The Beatles were rejected by Decca Recording Studio, because executives didn’t like their sound and proclaimed. “They have no future in show business.” They got up. We invest our time, attention, and energy to this endeavor to give our Airmen and civilians, the opportunity to realize personal greatness. Our Airmen and our Air Force benefit when that happens.

 

Why are our efforts being directed to something that does not affect how we conduct our primary mission?

Embracing resiliency absolutely impacts our mission accomplishment in a positive way. Just like you don’t wait until you get sick to start eating right and exercising; just like you don’t take the car in after its already broken down; we do not and cannot afford to wait until challenges, failures, and tragedies occur to begin discussing resilient behavior strategies.

We’ve always faced challenges. The Air Force has long embraced enhancing community and individual resilience as a leadership principle, but now it is actively and aggressively emphasizing its importance. Every new first term Airman receives 10 hours of training focused on acknowledging successful resiliency strategies and behaviors. We’ve identified dozens of master resiliency trainers and resiliency training assistants to assist our commanders, Chief Master Sergeants, first sergeants, and supervisors in bringing our community atmosphere to a high level of resiliency and keeping it high.

Winston Churchill said “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

The intent is to bring resiliency strategies to D-M by incorporating it into focused leadership sessions and ensuring our entire community embraces this philosophy, including spouses and family members. We plan to discuss resiliency strategies during our quarterly Comprehensive Airman Fitness days and professional development seminars, at lunch and learning seminars, and within our units at every opportunity. The base’s leadership, including our trained resiliency experts, are committed to resiliency not being seen as a program, but as an essential part of how we lead, how we follow and, for those who are already strongly resilient to both life and military challenges, how we take care of each other as wingmen.




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