Resiliency a program for success

SOCORRO, N.M. -- As members of the U.S. Air Force, we are held to high levels of standards in every aspect of our lives, both professionally and personally. We have answered our nation's call to serve and are proud and humbled to be offered such a great responsibility. Despite the greatness which flows through our ranks, none of us are immune to trials and sufferings. However, what makes us who we are as individuals and as an Air Force is how we handle those trials.

Resiliency is often defined as returning to strength or success after you are faced with adversity. If this common understanding is dissected, one will find two key components. The first is returning to, or potentially surpassing, a previous state of being. It is a state an individual has experienced in the past and one which is familiar. An individual should understand the dedication and effort it takes to maintain this state.

Second, resiliency does not come into play unless you are faced with adversity. In order to grow and become more effective, an individual requires a degree of opposition to push beyond the status-quo. It is our obligation to ourselves and to the entire Air Force to develop resiliency that will keep us fighting strong both on and off the battlefield.

In recent years the Air Force has focused on four pillars of wellness, that when combined, make up the Comprehensive Airman Fitness program. Those pillars are Spiritual, Physical, Mental and Social. Each one plays a vital role in our daily lives and encompasses much more than the title it declares. For some, the focus on all four is equally distributed, while for others a stronger emphasis might be placed in one or two categories. No matter how we cut the pie, it is necessary to have a good understanding of one's own needs and capabilities in each area. As we approach these pillars with the goal of improving our personal and group resiliency, have we approached it incorrectly by calling it a "program?"

We often associate the word with strictly regulated rules and requirements that take away from the task at hand - completing the mission. Some may say complying with a program will take away our individualism and force us to become something we are not. Sure, things like a rigorous PT program to prepare your body for the physical demands it may endure is something that can be trained and forced upon you. That type of program is something you will be glad to have undergone when faced with difficult physical tasks.

But what about your personal spiritual beliefs or mental ability to deal with extreme suffering? These are not things that can be learned through technical school or advanced training. They require years of personal experience with oneself and with others. The resiliency program is not designed to take any one person, put them through a series of seminars and PowerPoint lessons, and magically turn that person into a resilient Airman. The program is built around the idea that each person has individual strengths and weaknesses. It is our responsibility to learn for ourselves what those are and how they affect our life and the lives of those with whom we interact. Without a program to instill resiliency at a personal level, we would ultimately fail as a unit, big or small, when working together to complete the mission.

Our current Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, said, "Our focus is on the well-being and care for ourselves, each other and our families so we can be more resilient to the many challenges military service brings."

A person's rank, AFSC or duty title does not matter if we do not do ourselves and the Air Force justice by embedding a strong resiliency program at all levels and in every area of our lives. There will be no mission success because there will be no one left to carry it out.