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Wingman Day focuses on social, spiritual resiliency

  • Published
  • By Col. Mike Hornitschek
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing commander
Resiliency. Spiritual, mental, physical, or social--you never know when you are going to need it, but once you do, you'll be glad you spent the time upfront to build it.

This was validated again in my own life this past week when a member of my family developed a medical condition that required a trip to the emergency room and a three-day stay in the hospital. I could not have seen it coming, but when it did, there was nothing to do but hang on for the ride.

The good news is that the Hornitscheks had spent some time up front building spiritual wellness and social relationships, and the outpouring of friends and co-workers' help was instantaneous, welcome, and much appreciated in our time of need. It's probably safe to say we could not have made it through the episode without the assistance of others, and as a result we thrived in what could have been an otherwise overwhelming stressful event. A big heartfelt "Thank You" to all those who helped or offered to help--we owe you one!

With that in mind, and leveraging the great work of our Wingman Council, next Thursday (June 30) the 375th Air Mobility Wing will be taking the second of two scheduled Wingman Days this year to focus on building the social and spiritual pillars of the Comprehensive Airman Fitness model. I'm sure everyone will understand why there will be a few reduced services that day across the base as we make a small investment in our Airmen and their families to build the resiliency that will ultimately lead to greater productivity and mission success supporting the customers we serve.

We're focusing on social resiliency because it tends to improve coping skills and social support, foster feelings of optimism and hope, promote healthy behavior, and reduce feelings of depression and anxiety. People who are socially resilient are more likely to establish healthy relationships and engage in activities that are personally meaningful.
Many of the things we do with other people have now been shown to actually increase our own happiness: 

Helping other people. One researcher found that if you log five kind acts - big or small - over the course of a single day, you'll actually increase your happiness level .
Showing gratitude. Several studies have shown that people who feel gratitude toward particular individuals, even when they never directly express it, experience closer and "higher quality" relationships with them. 
Sharing good news. One study showed that people who resolved to respond with interest and enthusiasm to someone else's good news three times a day for one week actually became happier and less depressed.

Being socially fit helps us to develop effective relationships, helps us understand the importance of social support, helps us value free time, and most important, helps us cope with external stressors. Social fitness doesn't require that you be married or within close proximity to your family. However, marriage and family connections are ready-made opportunities for social resiliency.

Many report that the military forges the closest social ties they've ever experienced. During Wingman Day it's especially important to get your groups thinking and talking about what facilitates and undermines that social aspect here at Scott AFB. Obviously, we want to develop those activities and programs that build resiliency and curb those actions that degrade our hardiness.

For our focus on the spiritual pillar, it's important to note that spirituality has been defined in numerous ways. These include: a belief in a power operating in the universe that is greater than oneself; a sense of interconnectedness with all living creatures; and an awareness of the purpose and meaning of life and the development of personal, absolute values.

Spiritual resiliency is the way you find meaning, hope, comfort, and inner peace in your life. Although spirituality is often associated with religious life, many believe that personal spirituality can be developed outside of religion. Acts of compassion and selflessness, altruism (concern for others), and the experience of inner peace are all characteristics of spirituality.

Spiritual practices tend to improve coping skills and social support, foster feelings of optimism and hope, promote healthy behavior, reduce feelings of depression and anxiety, and encourage a sense of relaxation. By alleviating stressful feelings and promoting healing ones, spirituality can positively influence immune, cardiovascular (heart and blood vessels), hormonal, and nervous systems.

We all need to feel validated, that we matter, that our suffering and our hard work aren't futile, and that our life has a purpose. We also need to feel a sense of control over our fates and be able to justify our actions. We also need a reason to focus beyond just ourselves.

I look forward to sharing these and other important messages at the all calls along with Command Chief Kevin Candler, the group commanders, mental health professionals, and the chaplains. As you know our motto is: "Have a Wingman ... Be a Wingman!" So, let's have a great Wingman Day!