MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --
I recently read an online article that described how, during
WWI, U.S. Army leaders noticed that many of the men who did well in the
sports-style training programs they were using for fitness, including many of
the physical training cadre, would fail during long ruck marches. The same
observations have persisted to today. As a result, the U.S. Army is
experimenting with a different model of PT test, and the U.S. Marine Corps have
implemented a combat fitness assessment in addition to their regular PT test.
Some Army and Marine units have also adapted their physical training to better
equip themselves for the specific physical demands of their jobs.
point you’re probably asking what this has to do with us, and why the chaplain
is talking about physical training. After all, for many of us in the USAF, the
greatest physical demand we might face would be having to hurriedly carry a
wounded comrade to a place of safety while wearing body armor. However, our
jobs create many specific emotional and spiritual challenges, and we should
prepare for them the same way we should prepare for the physical challenges.
Training for long distance running makes little sense if your job requires you
lift and hold heavy objects on a regular basis. In the same way, it makes
little sense to not equip yourself emotionally and relationally for the challenges
you may face as part of your job. What does this involve?
training is helpful, but before we think about preparing for our jobs we should
start by looking at areas where we need to grow personally. The same way each
of us have areas we need to grow physically, all of us struggle with some kind
of issue in our lives. Some may struggle with anger, with grief, depression, a
broken self-image, low self-confidence, a sense of being unwanted, or any
number of other issues. To grow in a way that helps us overcome such issues, we
can start by developing a greater personal awareness of our thoughts and
feelings, and that takes daily (realistically hourly) practice and focus.
Growing ourselves means that we
need to be able to recognize and think about our thoughts and feelings, find
out where they’re coming from (our thoughts and feelings have a cause, after
all), and deal with what’s causing them. That’s particularly true for those who
recognize there are specific troubling thoughts and feelings that are creating
problems in their lives. For some, talking with a counselor or chaplain may be
helpful for getting ahead in overcoming such things. Some may benefit from
talking with friends or loved ones to start growing their personal awareness;
we can benefit greatly from learning to see ourselves through the eyes of others.
As well as
growing individually, preparing for the demands for our jobs means recognizing
what the demands are. One of the demands we all face as part of our military
life is occasional separation from our loved ones, sometimes for long periods of
time. Separation creates several challenges. We need to work through how things
at home will get handled while we’re away, and how responsibilities will get
shifted back when we return. We also need to talk through our feelings about
the separation; uncommunicated feelings can become a major problem over time if
they’re not addressed.
to the separation itself, sometimes we go to places where we’re faced with the
ugly side of war. Not only can we be placed in danger, the friends we work with
often deploy with us. I’ve talked about preparing for this side of things in
other newsletters so I don’t have to go into detail on this, but we do need
prepare for the possibility of experiencing moral and emotional wounds from
what we might face. Talking with your loved ones about what to do if you are
emotionally wounded by what you experience in a warzone is a step in the right
many of us will not have to face the ugly side of war, and for those who do,
help is available. All of us, however, can benefit from practicing greater
awareness of our thinking and our feelings, and from working through life
issues that create problems for us. We can all also benefit from coming up with
plans for dealing with the emotional side of separations created by deployments
If you’d like to talk with someone
about ways you can grow past wounds of the past, how you can prepare for the
emotional, moral, or spiritual demands of your job, or would like some extra
pointers on how to prepare your relationships for the strains created by
military life, you can reach the Chaplain’s Office at 803-647-8265. We are part
of the same team, and are here to encourage you whenever needed.