Resiliency: The key to surviving the deployed experience Part 1

Southwest Asia -- This is the first of a three-part series on resiliency. Each week, the members of our panel will discuss perspective, preparation, and the resources available at the 380 AEW to help Airmen become more resilient.


Resiliency. We read about it in our computer based training and we hear about it during commander’s calls, but what does it actually mean to be resilient?  I sat down with Chaplain Lt. Col. Dan, Chief Master Sgt. James, from the 380 Expeditionary Mission Support Group, Master Sergeant William, First Sergeant Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, and Capt. Kamy, Chief of the 380th’s Mental Health Clinic to find out and to understand ways to prepare for the potential stressors that are part of the deployed experience.


Simms: We’ve all heard about the importance of resiliency and how the Air Force builds a resilient force, but can you tell me what that means and how it relates to Airmen here at the 380th?


Chaplain Dan: Resiliency is the ability to recover from a certain circumstance that happens in life. It’s a process by which we can emotionally, physically, spiritually, prepare ourselves for the storms in life.


First Sergeant William:  Resiliency isn’t about being responsive, it’s about being proactive. It’s about building strong individuals and a healthy lifestyle so when life tragedies occur the person is able to rebound quickly.


Capt Kamy: This Air Force has done a lot with the comprehensive fitness program to help Airmen build strengths in multiple areas (mental, physical, social, and spiritual) to disseminate the risk across these areas and help make it through the tough times. But we all have weaknesses in certain areas and a lot of people don’t want to reach out and ask for help. We take a lot of pride in handling our own issues and sometimes we wait too long to reach out for help.


Chaplain Dan: A lot of it comes back to perspective and the individual thresholds for dealing with crises. If someone works out regularly, they can fall back to that to alleviate some of the stress. But if someone doesn’t have a fall back activity or support network they can rely on, they can feel they have nowhere to turn, which lowers their threshold for dealing with adversity.


Simms: You mentioned individual thresholds and I understand that everyone has a breaking point, everyone can deal with different amounts of stress. Can you talk about that a little bit?


First Sergeant William: Everyone’s threshold is lower or higher depending on how many positive coping mechanisms or positive habits they have and when someone is really in need, it’s usually not because of one incident. I call them building blocks. When the blocks build up and slowly starts weighing you down, lowering that threshold or that breaking point, that’s when you need the coping mechanisms to take away those blocks.


Chief James: Those Airmen that don’t have those coping mechanisms, the ones that don’t’ go to the gym or don’t socialize at the Camel, they’re not doing those positive things to recover and eventually will get weighed down as those blocks build up.


Chaplain Dan: A person’s threshold may be different than someone else’s due to their personality so there’s no one size fit’s all solution. That’s why it’s so important to gain that perspective so you can know your weaknesses and hopefully anticipate potential stressors before they become too big to manage.


In order to gain that perspective, and build up the personal threshold to deal with the building blocks as Shirt William said, every one of us should take a self-inventory every once in a while.  Figure out what we’re doing right and what we can improve on. That way when the storm comes you’ll have the mental, spiritual, social, and physical foundation to lean on when you can’t do it alone.


Next week’s addition to the series will discuss preparation, and how to prepare for the storm.