Citizen Airmen in Pacific promote mental, physical resilience
JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii —
September is Suicide Awareness Month, and the 624th Regional Support Group in Hawaii and Guam took this opportunity during the unit’s Unit Training Assembly Sept. 12–13 to focus on this topic and resiliency.
The purpose of a resilience tactical pause is to take time out during the normal routine to open up with peers about important topics and provide a safe haven to discuss concerns, and the 624th RSG used this event to connect fitness with mental health and suicide prevention.
“Our Airmen and their families are under a lot of stress right now,” said Col. Edward Johnson, 624th Aeromedical Staging Squadron commander, “With COVID-19, social justice issues, and even the recent wildfires, many are experiencing significant concerns that can have an impact on their mental and physical well-being.”
The resilience tactical pause was spearheaded by the first sergeants’ council to stress and promote communication and understanding and was a way to focus on both members’ physical and mental health.
“Because this month was another hybrid-style Unit Training Assembly, we had to ensure our resilience tactical pause allowed members to participate virtually,” said Master Sgt. Sandro Cardona, 624th Civil Engineering Squadron first sergeant, “What we did was gather the information on the resilience tactical pause and disseminated it to the sections and supervisors. Facilitators discussed designated topics to be covered, and the items that we needed to be talked about.”
The significance of this event centered on Airmen being able to open up and share their concerns and stressors in their daily lives. They were able to participate both in person and virtually.
“Many times we have these types of events and there is resistance,” said Cardona. “Members would tell us they didn’t feel comfortable or didn’t want to make waves. The goal of this resilience tactical pause was to get our Airmen talking openly. With topics sensitive topics like race and social justice, it’s really important for all of us to be open and accepting of each other’s viewpoints, because we work alongside and go to war with each other, we need to make sure we can listen to each other.”
As members participated both physical and virtual, they were also given different methods of coping with stressors and building their resiliency. One aspect of the resilience tactical pause was a physical component, in which members could step back from their desks and home computers and perform physical training together for the first time in months.
“The physical resiliency challenge is a great way to get the blood flowing,” said Master Sgt. Jonathan Onekea, 48th Aerial Port Squadron first sergeant. “Physical resiliency is really important, especially with the stress of COVID-19 and the feeling of being cooped up at home. It’s not only good for us physically, but also for our mental well-being. This gave us a chance to get together physically and virtually with our sections and exercise.”
Overall, physical fitness and readiness is vital to the U.S. Air Force mission, and more specifically to each Airmen’s health and wellness. This portion of the resilience tactical pause was set in place to address those requirements as well as boost morale.
“The mindset that we wanted to get out is to remain mentally and physically fit during the pandemic,” said Tech. Sgt. Reid Merriwether, 624th Regional Support Group Sustainment Flight chief. “Physical fitness is important for numerous reasons; it benefits our future health and helps us stay ready now. It’s important to always keep yourself mobile, especially if you have to go downrange.”
Staying active and connected provides an opportunity for Airmen to grow and even save lives.
“There have been numerous situations when I’ve been training and coaching sports where I have seen people who were headed down dark paths both physically and mentally,” said Merriwether. “I’ve coached kids in football who came from broken homes where physical fitness and the team aspect kept them from taking a negative path in life. There’s a feeling of fulfillment that comes with being held accountable by a community of peers.”
Merriwether also attested to the mental wellness benefits that come with an active lifestyle, even in the hardest of times.
“I had one situation where an individual’s mental and physical health was declining,” said Merriwether. “At the time he felt like it was a hopeless situation. He had just gone through a break-up, his parents were in bad health, and alcohol was becoming a factor.
Merriwether discussed how he helped the individual implement healthy habits and workout regimens.
“With this particular person I knew he needed encouragement, so I worked out with him,” said Merriwether. “After a few months, I was able to see his physical and mental health movement in a positive direction.”
Resilience tactical pauses provide many valuable resources and communication tools for service members. There are also other tools available to Airmen, such as Family Advocacy, Military OneSource, and the Chaplain Corps, which are all beneficial in promoting military resiliency. It is vital to stay mentally, spiritually, and physically fit to maintain resilience during challenging times.