NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev., — Airmen in the U.S. Air Force may find obstacles and challenges in their path when conducting day-to-day operations, supporting a deployment tasking or dealing with family issues.
These challenges can often result in stress that may hinder Airmen’s performance in their work and in their personal life.
In 2010, the U.S. Army partnered with the University of Pennsylvania to help their Soldiers with combat fatigue and post traumatic stress. They developed Comprehensive Soldier Fitness with the help of UPENN’s Positive Psychology Program that provided strategy for strengthening resilience.
Erik Christensen, 99th Air Base Wing community support coordinator, said not long after the Army incorporated CSF in training for their Soldiers, the Air Force began to formulate a resilience training plan of their own. The new plan would combine safety day, resiliency day, and wingman day into one event.
“The Air Force quickly noticed the brilliance in what the Army was doing, and we developed Comprehensive Air Force Fitness,” Christensen said.
Nellis AFB units incorporate resilience training in the form of CAF days.
“Due to the fluctuating schedule of emergency responders and the flying mission Airmen here support, a single day to perform a CAF day with 100 percent participation for the entire base is not realistic. To remedy the high ops tempo, commanders are given a three week window to implement a CAF day to help ensure all Airmen receive the valuable resiliency education CAF can provide,” Christensen said.
Commanders will be expected to implement a CAF day for their Airmen every quarter, and each quarter will focus on a different pillar of resiliency – mental, social, spiritual and physical.
“Because there are four pillars, four quarters and four CAF days, we focus on one pillar each quarter,” Christensen said. “So if someone is stationed here for three years, [that individual] will have received 12 CAF days and have had three days training dedicated to each pillar.”
The requirements can be fulfilled in many different ways.
“[A CAF day] could be as simple as a team building exercise in your conference room, a process improvement event within the work center, or a hiking event at Mount Charleston,” Christensen said.
The Air Force will use these days to educate Airmen about resilience.
“Through sustained implementation and continuing development, the strengthening of resilience will help Airmen be more prepared to survive stressful situations and avert self-defeating behavior,” he said.
“Think of professional [athletes] who practice, practice and practice,” Christensen said.
“Then they step on to the mound in the ninth inning of the game trying to throw a pitch through the cheering and blowing of horns from the audience. They are able to shut it out, focus on the task at hand and accomplish their job to throw a strike.”
“They didn’t practice it right on the mound. It took Weeks, months and years of their career so that when it came time for them to perform in that stressful environment, they could succeed because they were ready.”
Nellis AFB squadrons just completed the mental resiliency pillar CAF day. Tech Sgt. Mircea Rosculet, 99th Comptroller Squadron budget analyst, thinks his squadron’s CAF day was beneficial and well executed.
“I think [it] was a big success,” Rosculet said. “[The day] started with Yoga, continued with an open forum discussion about how we cope with stress and ended up with golf. It was a great set up, and each participant during the open forum had the opportunity to express their own methods of balancing personal and professional life.”
The experience helped develop Rosculet’s own outlook on CAF implementation in the Air Force.
“In my opinion CAF days are a great idea,” Rosculet said. “It focuses on the Airmen, and how to build a more resilient Air Force. People discover, no matter what the rank, that we go through similar struggles in life, and there is help available if life gets to tough. We are all here for each other.”
“It’s about strengthening the valuable resource of our people so they are strong like steel to implement the mission of the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. military,” Christensen said.