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August Shirt Blast

MSgt Andrew Hunsicker

Portrait of Master Sgt. Andrew Hunsicker, first sergeant for the 245th Air Traffic Control Squadron at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C. (U.S. Air Force Courtesy Photo)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --

If you ask me, we are living in tough times right now and we need to be tough to get through them. Our toughness determines how well we navigate these turbulent political and social seas.

The Air Force see toughness as resilience in the four pillars of Comprehensive Airman Fitness (CAF), mental, physical, social and spiritual. CAF enables us to take inventory of ourselves in each category and adjust as necessary. This is not a one-time self-evaluation, because our lives and experiences constantly change.

All Airmen know about CAF but many don’t do the tough work of identifying and repairing shortfalls. The danger of not fixing minor issues when they are minor is that they may recur and the ensuing, compounding effect may build mental strongholds. Mental strongholds can lend to weakness in the other CAF areas; physical—stress can cause physical or medical issues, social—we may start to treat people differently or not be as transparent, spiritual—we may distance ourselves from church or develop mistrust in our higher power. Again, knowing about resiliency and doing resiliency are two different things and can be the difference between life and death.

In his Resiliency Message to Airmen, former Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright recognized the 2019 suicide rate was much higher than prior years. He gave the charge to each organization within the Air Force to develop a local plan to specifically target resiliency and help combat the epidemic of suicide. This message led to the mandated, one-day “tactical pause” held throughout the entire Air Force.

Our base’s tactical pause gave us a better awareness of the necessity for change to the typical approach to resiliency. It showed us that the social aspect of CAF is often neglected. Some Airmen shared that they felt alone and neglected to the point where they had no one close enough to openly talk to about personal issues that, if not discussed, can lead to serious depression or suicide.

We need to keep a ladder in our mental toolbox to help us climb out of this pit of isolation and neglect. I suggest Airmen seek out a military mentor they can trust and intentionally develop a relationship with them. Personally, I didn’t do the work to seek out a mentor here in the SCANG and I wish I had. It would have made a tremendous impact on me with CAF but also with military growth and leadership.

The physical aspect of CAF is built into the Air Force culture through physical fitness requirements and testing. In my time at the First Sergeant Academy, I found that my level of participation in this area needed to be increased and it wasn’t just about passing a PFT. The more consistent workouts helped my mental health and made me feel better physically.

The spiritual aspect of CAF is important in my life and generally has been at a strong level during my military career. This area helps me daily in every aspect of living. Being able to believe in something or someone on whom I can depend gives me perspective in life and what happens in and around me.

Finally, the mental aspect of CAF is vital in maintaining resiliency. In the way I view life, several things come to mind; your thoughts precipitate your actions and your perception is your reality. When I go through difficult times in life, I believe my situation is temporary and can change for the better. When I hear about others who are going through tougher times than me, it helps me realize that, if they can make it, I can make it too.

In summary, if you have not gone from just knowing about resiliency and CAF to doing a self-inventory and putting a plan into action, there is no time like the present to start. Ask someone you trust to be your mentor and be a mentor for someone else. Start a new habit of exercise and find someone to hold you accountable. Practice positive self-talk in front of the mirror and eliminate negative mindsets and thoughts. Here’s to us taking steps to put resiliency into action so we can be better Airmen for us, for our families and our colleagues. Semper Primus.