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Building resilient Airmen!

  • Published
  • By Col. Michael Hornitschek
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing Commander
Last week, commanders and command chiefs from throughout Air Mobility Command gathered here for a one-day brain-storming session about how to build more resilient Airmen. As many of us know, this is a high priority for all commanders and Wingmen everywhere as we all look to ensure our Airmen are properly equipped to deal with the unique stresses of military life.

There was much discussion over the many recommendations that were made, and those will be addressed by Gen. Raymond Johns Jr., AMC commander, and his staff in the days and weeks to come. Since July 2010, the command has focused on our Airmen's mental, physical, social and spiritual health as part of the Comprehensive Airman Fitness culture. As part of CAF, there are the five "Cs" in its framework--caring, committing, communicating, connecting, and celebrating --that serve as action verbs guiding supervisor, Wingman, and family behavior to create an indestructibly resilient community network that thrives against the challenges we face.

It's not just the commanders who are working to bring about a culture that produces more resilient Airmen ... as evidenced in some recent articles:

About mental fitness: "When our force is mentally fit, they are better equipped to take on the every-day challenges presented by the Air Force and the military," said Lt. Col. John Jorgensen, Air Mobility Command's Mental Health Consultant. "We face deployments, high operations tempo, and other stressors that bring us challenges every day in dealing with our mental health. We, as Airmen, have to prepare ourselves and find the right combination of things in our lives that gives us the tools to cope and manage stressors as well as do things that brings us happiness. From that, we can achieve mental fitness."

About the behavior of "caring:" Retired Chief Master Sgt. Rod Ellison, former command chief for Air Education and Training Command who spoke to an AMC gathering, said, "Airmen don't care about how much you know until they know how much you care." He described how during a period of time in his early career where he allowed himself to fall out of military standards. When a technical sergeant he worked for immediately noticed the infractions, the course of his military life and direction then changed.

"Every day for the next six weeks, I got to spend breakfast with three technical sergeants," Chief Ellison said. During that "breakfast," he said his uniform and appearance were inspected thoroughly and he sat at attention answering questions while sitting at the position of attention. While he knew it was a form of discipline, he added that it was also a demonstration by Airmen who took a vital interest in his life. "If you look at it another way, here were three NCOs who took time out of their lives every day to help me become better. They took time out to show they cared."

About spiritual fitness: "Spirituality means something different to every single individual," said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Michael Brown, 628th Air Base Wing chaplain and senior chaplain of Joint Base Charleston, S.C. "There is no one standard answer that fits all." But, he did say that there are three components to being spiritually fit: the first is to discover meaning in your life and a meaning that transcends anything in the physical world; the second concept is living out that purpose; and the third idea encompasses a person being at peace with his or her life no matter what stage of life ... childhood or adulthood.

Those are just a few of the examples of the conversations being held around the command. There is more than just talk occurring though. In my capacity as the base commander I've seen cases in the past seven months where our Airmen have literally risked their own safety and convenience to save another Airman's life--it gives me great encouragement and pride in our people to witness this. When I ask these saviors what made them do it--they humbly say it was just the right thing to do and their Air Force Creed taught them to never leave a Wingman behind.

Our wing will have an opportunity to further discuss the Wingman culture and how we're supporting the CAF environment during our Wingman Day Feb. 18. In addition, I'll be addressing some of these areas in my next commander's call on Friday, Feb. 11.
In this time that we have set aside, we should focus on how we take personal responsibility for maintaining a healthful balance in our lives, as well as how we can affect those around us to do the same. We should be looking at how we as supervisors, commanders and Wingmen can create a climate that promotes this balance as best we can with regards to mission accomplishment. Together we'll continue on our journey to build resilient Airmen!