Southwest Asia -- Recently I sat down with Chaplain Lt. Col. Dan, Chief 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 discuss resiliency. What follows is part two of our three part series.
Simms: Now that we’ve defined resiliency, what are some of the challenges that come from living and working in a deployed environment that test our resiliency?
Chaplain Dan: Airmen often struggle with the separation from loved ones. For some, the situation can lead to discouragement, homesickness, and depression. Sometimes it’s hard for others to find a social circle while deployed which can also lead to loneliness.
Capt Kamy: None of us are immune from depression, anxiety, loneliness, and relationship issues here.
Chief James: With this rotation it’s important to know that a lot of folks are nearing the half way point of their deployment. That seems to be where the stress of being away starts to sink in because you’ve been away from your loved ones for several months, then throw in the holidays on top of that, and it can be a compounded problem for this rotation.
Chaplain Dan: From my experience, a lot of people rely solely on their spouses at home for social support and that puts a lot of pressure on the relationship. If that starts to go south then people are really at a loss and without that support network lifting you up you’re not going to be able to endure. It’s all in how you prepare.
Simms: And what’s the best way to prepare?
Chief James: I tell my folks to make sure they’re communicating if they have someone at home spending money over the holidays so they’re in tune with how much money is in the budget for the holidays. Communication is key.
Capt Kamy: We see a lot of cases in mental health after the holidays, not before, which may be surprising. During the buildup people are excited, filled with anticipation and maybe the way things played out didn’t meet your expectations or didn’t go so well. Sometimes the real issue is in January when the credit card bills are due. Anticipating problems before they arise is a great way to prepare yourself.
Chaplain Dan: I encourage people to get involved. Start serving other people, doing things for others, volunteering. Another thing that can help is to make plans in advance with your loved ones about what to do if various problems come up while you’re deployed. Since we can’t always predict what might happen, thanks to modern technology, it’s possible to have those kinds of conversations while you’re here.
First Sergeant William: Facetiming with the family is great but anything done to excess can lead to problems if it dominates your life. Social media is also great but it can be just as much of a negative as a positive because they open up Facebook and see how everyone’s life is great back home, then the homesickness sets in.
Chief James: That’s why people need to cherish what they have. This is the gem of the AOR. We have the enmities and a small town community environment where you can build those relationships with a broad group of people. If you have to deploy, why not go somewhere that seems like small town America?
First Sergeant William: It’s also important to feel like you have a purpose and it’s up to the supervisors to instill that in the first time deployers we have here. This wing is doing a lot of amazing things, we’re really making history here and each unit needs to remind their members of that.
Simms: For the person that’s going to read this, they know what their job is so what do you mean by purpose?
Chaplain Dan: Ask yourself what makes you feel like you have importance. For many that is the work they do.
Chief James: That can also lead to problems if you spend all of your time diving into work. I’m guilty of it and like the shirt said anything done to excess can lead to problems. Sometimes we have to step back and do other things.
Chaplain Dan: If that’s the case with you then ask yourself where you would find a sense of significance if you were unable to continue your job. Those kinds of questions are tough but if we ask ourselves those kinds of questions we’re more likely to be equipped to face the kinds of challenges we can face when we’re deployed.
Using this time to allow yourself to grow is a great way to become more fit as an individual. Everyone should set a goal for themselves while they’re here and work to achieve it. A steady routine can be a good way to help yourself focus on achieving your goals and provide that sense of purpose.