February 26, 2016

‘Under Pressure’

Lt. Col. Mark Reynolds
Peterson AFB, Colo.

We saw 2016 begin with the loss of rock-n-roll legend David Bowie, and while listening to my satellite radio’s “Bowie tribute” last month I was inspired to title my article after one of his hit songs.
I find it particularly relevant because everyone, whether yourself, co-worker, family member, or the person waiting next to you in line at the store — is “under pressure” of some sort. I see and hear it everywhere I go.
One of the best parts of my job is interacting with civilian and military members across the base.
A common ice breaker I use when meeting a new individual is: “How are you doing? What’s going on in your life?”
Commonly, during these discussions I find active duty to be stressed about upcoming fitness tests with the looming question: what happens if I fail? It’s just so stressful. I often explain that paperwork is likely (depending on number of failures) and that I too feel pressure before my fitness test, especially since my failure will likely result in loss of command. This is normally met with a response of — really — that can happen? I reply with a definite “Yes – really, I’ll get fired”.
Another topic of discussion often brought up is stress of balancing life, career, fitness, school, new additions to the family, etc.
I can relate to this as well since my wife and I have a 3-year old and a 5-month old, along with challenging careers. Finding balance is never easy and I struggle to do it every day.
I don’t have the absolute answer because there are many right answers. The balancing method that works best for one probably doesn’t work best for another (or me).
Finally, I’m told testing for promotion is always a pressure cooker. High year tenure is sometimes looming and the tension is mounting.
I completed Air War College in 2013, thus my days of professional military education are pretty much behind me and my master’s degree was completed 15 years ago, so until recently I’ve had difficulty relating to this type of pressure … but not anymore.
Last year concluded with the American Academy of Medical Administrators closing its doors after nearly 60 years of existence.
As a Medical Service Corps Officer (Healthcare Administrator in civilian terms) I’m required to maintain certification through a professional organization, and AAMA was my organization. While my credentials don’t expire until 2018, I must find another organizational affiliation and take a board of governors’ exam for initial certification; which I’d prefer to do sooner rather than later.
To make it even more stressful, other Medical Administrators in my unit already have their credentials with one of these other organizations. What if I fail the test my first time taking it? How does that look for me as the commander and lead administrator?
So now I have the challenges of command, balancing family life (with a new baby), fitness and studying for a six-hour certification exam … did I mention that I’m nearly 43? Needless to say I’m feeling under pressure.
But never fear! The keys to success are preparation, confidence, determination and attitude.
I have all of these facets as I face the challenges ahead … and if I need help in my quests, the chaplain, mental health, fellow Airman and my family are there to assist. I have many resources to assist in dealing with the pressure … I know things will work out.
So the next time you’re feeling “under pressure” just remember you are not alone … and it’s not a bad thing. Pressure is all around, part of our everyday routine. It’s what molds us into who we are and charts our course in life. Just smile and prepare to conquer the task at hand … you’re not alone and will do fine.

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