Why resilience is important for all airmen

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Deborah J. Dillard
  • 17th Medical Operations Squadron Commander
As Air Force members, we know all about the ever-changing demands associated with military service. Airmen today are under great stress to deliver more in less time with fewer resources. The Air Force Medical Operations Agency (AFMOA) states "all Airmen are at increased risk for exposure to potentially traumatic events and Post Traumatic Stress (PTS)...the Air Force must provide these warfighters and their families enhanced pre, during, and post-deployment support programs."

The Air Force Medical Service is Building a culture of Resiliency to ensure our Airmen and families are resilient and equipped to deal with increased stressors and traumatic events in their lives. Resilience can help manage change, overcome challenges and endure setbacks. It is often described as the capacity to cope with chronic or traumatic stress, the ability to roll with the punches, or having the ability to adapt to adversity. It means that although an Airmen encounter stress, adversity, trauma or tragedy, our Airmen keep functioning, both psychologically and physically. Having the ability to bounce back after being physically or emotionally stressed increases self-esteem, this in turn helps build resilience so that Airmen can bounce back the next time something stressful happens.

In our day to day responsibilities as Airmen (Leaders, Officers and Enlisted) we are tasked to meet mission requirements that are often challenging and may lead to increased stressors in our already busy lives. Something to remember, resilience is not only for the deployed airmen returning home, it is also necessary for the Airmen remaining on station that carries on in the absence of their peers and co-workers who are deployed. The Unit's mission must carry on requiring the non deployed member to assume increased workload and responsibility. Resilience can enable Airmen to manage these increased responsibilities and stressors, and minimize the negative effects on personal and family life situations.

Resilience can help Airmen view apparent problems from more than one angle, recognizing both the risks and the opportunities in challenging situations. Leadership and supervisors that are fully engaged and reinforce resilience training can influence and inspire members. Airmen are able to learn from past mistakes, seek resources when needed, be persistent in obtaining assistance and answers regarding health care, learn how to turn lemons into lemonade and re-channel negative thoughts and energy into positive actions. Resilience boosts confidence, hardiness, emotional strength and hopefulness. For those long extended duty days, resilience combats exhaustion, depression and career burnout so you can function more effectively and produce better outcomes.

Utilization and encouragement of the Wingman concept goes hand in hand with resiliency training. "Strong Wingman cultures ensures Airmen resiliency"-AFMOA/SGHW. As leaders and Wingman, we need to utilize resilience and ensure our personnel utilize resilience to become 'Pressure Proof' so that if or when the time comes they are able to bounce back fast from the stress, tension or burn out in their professional or personal life. Resilience training is available to all Airmen. Airmen can learn to schedule down time, optimize time management, set boundaries and prioritize task, such as handling the most difficult task first and being aware of your body and minds peak functioning time so not to over task.

Developing resilience is not a quick-fix proposition. That is why the Air Force Medical Service is working towards building a culture of resiliency. Keep in mind that when you build personal resilience, you are using primary prevention to ward off career burnout and the symptoms associated with it. Individuals can learn to communicate assertively, put complaints into constructive forum, and create a sense of community to anchor one's self too, build external support systems and assume initiative. Per AFMOA/SGHW-"Resilient leaders Build Resilient Followers and Organizations".