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Resiliency: A Panoramic View

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Bernard Untalan
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing chaplain's assistant
On a solo backpacking trip, weeks prior to my current deployment, I unintentionally veered away from my planned route after a sudden storm swept across the canyon floor I was hiking through. Though it was a direct affront on my pride, I had to admit to myself that I was lost.

As I fumbled between map, compass and pencil, and attempted to reorient myself beneath torrential downpour - the barren eastern Oregon landscape provided nothing in the way of suitable shelter - I asked myself a question I have asked on almost every single wilderness excursion I've been on: "Why am I doing this?" And further: "Why do I choose to wander through out-of-the-way backlands for multiple days, burdened by a heavy pack and far removed from every favored creature comfort known to the modern world, when I can be at home on my cozy couch, instead?"

My answer came, as it so often has on similar trips, after I eventually found my way back on my desired path and up a long, winding and brutally steep trail. I found myself atop a canyon ridge, overlooking an expanse of stunning canyon country and the wild river that cut a swath through it to form the natural phenomenon I beheld with grateful eyes. The only reasonable response in that moment was to drop my pack, stand and pray as my head swiveled slowly in a panoramic motion from left to right and back again. That indescribable view, that heartfelt moment of reflection and prayer inspired by nature was the reason why I chose to endure the earlier rigors of frustration, fear and mental and physical exhaustion; an invaluable reward for choosing not to give up.

It goes without saying life as a member of the armed forces (particularly in a deployed environment) often challenges one to face a unique set of adversities. While we are often thanked for our service by the general public and perhaps well compensated in a material manner, we may easily find ourselves heavily burdened both physically and mentally. Be it family separation, difficult life circumstances, on-the-job struggles or whatever else might come your way; fulfilling your unique role in the mission may feel like a steep climb with a heavy pack. When that happens, we may venture away from the path that leads to the stunning panoramic view atop the canyon ridge.

It is the intent of the Air Force's Comprehensive Airman Fitness program to help Airmen (and Air Force family members) develop a spirit of resiliency. This resiliency will enable us to endure the rigors of military life and inspire us to see the spectacular view our sacrifice and hard work brings forth for ourselves, our families, our country and indeed, our world. The Air Force outlines four pillars of resiliency are truly fitting, yet expansive, in their own right. There are the two pillars that extend beyond ourselves, to something greater, something other (spiritual); and to those we serve with and to those for whom we serve (social). The remaining two pillars fortify from within (mental and physical) and buttress the warrior ethos within us to fulfill our mission to "fly, fight and win."

Furthermore, we have constant access to a host of highly trained professionals that are able to strengthen and help rebuild any of our four pillars if they should begin to crumble. Our chaplain corps, medical group, Airman and Family Readiness Centers and other helping agencies stand ready to help.

So while we are working hard to achieve our goals - be they professional, academic, physical or family related - it is of the utmost importance to regularly lift your head up to see the bigger picture, to drop your heavy pack and take in the wondrous panoramic view that inspires. This is a view you've helped shape through sacrifice and service, a view beheld through resilient eyes and a view exceedingly worth the struggle and the exertion.