Invisible enemy

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Tech. Sgt. Samuel Brown, 960th Cyberspace Operations Group client systems technician, stands for a photo outside the 960th Cyberspace Wing headquarters building Aug. 8, 2020, at Joint Base San Antonio-Chapman Training Annex, Texas. (Air Force photograph by Samantha Mathison)
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If someone told me on Dec. 31, 2019, what was going to happen in 2020, I probably would’ve thought he or she was crazy and needed to talk to someone.

I would’ve reached out to his or her leadership and asked them to keep an extra eye out for that individual. I think anyone would be seriously concerned.

Think about it. That person would have said our kids won’t physically go back to school after spring break and would have to finish the school year through “Zoom.” That person would have said that we’d have to wear masks everywhere we go. Bars, restaurants, gyms and many other places deemed unessential would be closed down. The government would encourage us not go to work in order to help decrease the spread of a virus; a virus that would ultimately become a pandemic and during that pandemic there’d be massive protests around the world condemning police brutality.

Unfortunately, that crazy person would’ve been right and the few things I’ve listed are now a small part of our new normal.

As a Reserve Citizen Airman in the United States Air Force, I find peace in knowing I am not the only one feeling what I’m feeling at these times. All Reservists understand the extra responsibilities we carry on top of our already complicated civilian lives.

In times like these, it is important to realize we are not alone. There is an invisible enemy creeping its way into our hearts and minds and we, as Airmen, must take extra precautions to look out for our mental health and the mental health of our Airmen.

I find myself reaching out to my Airmen not just for them, but for my own mental health as well. We are all trying to adjust to our new normal and as a Reservist, we are used to interacting with each other at least once a month. For many Airmen that bond and understanding we get once a month cannot be duplicated in the civilian world.

So I encourage Airmen to reach out to their brothers and sisters in arms, even if it’s just to vent. We have to listen to one another and catch up because I assure you, that Airman understands more than we may feel they do.

We are all going through a change right now. Whether it’s stressing about who’s going to watch our children this upcoming school year and how they are going to complete their school work, to how we are going to sanitize our kitchen counters without Lysol wipes.

Seriously, who has all the Lysol wipes?

Human beings are social creatures who need feedback and interactions. In times like these, we must be the cyber professionals we were trained to be by using technology to fill in the gaps where in-person interactions are not possible.

I find myself using FaceTime with more than just my mother nowadays. Being able to see the person I am communicating with over FaceTime gives me a sense of normalcy that I feel would be awkward if we weren’t in these current times.

Most societal and social rules are understood without being communicated. For example, most would agree that a social rule for showing up to someone’s house without a text or a call first would equate to a social violation. Thanks to mobile technology we can communicate at any place and at any time, for the most part, which allows us to give a friend a heads up before we stop by.

Whereas, when I was a kid and cell phones weren’t as prevalent, I’m sure someone stopping by a friend’s house unannounced and ringing the doorbell wouldn’t cause as much anxiety as it would today.

With that, I feel FaceTime should be leveraged and used as a ‘stopping by a friend’s house’ type of check with our Airmen. There is something about face-to-face communications that can’t be replicated through text or voice. Physically seeing an Airman’s body language and expressions can equip us with information that texts just can’t. Sometimes a person’s body language and facial expressions will tell us what a person may not say with their mouths.

Even though leadership is enforcing social distancing to thwart physical safety concerns, this does not mean Airmen should isolate themselves in these difficult times. Now, more than ever, is the time to lean on one another and attack the invisible enemy creeping its way into all of our lives. Loneliness will not be an invisible enemy in our organization if we come together and actually utilize the technologies we already have to stay connected.

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