CAF: Mental fitness leads to a more resilient Airman

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol
  • Air Mobility Command Public Affairs
Since the Comprehensive Airman Fitness culture took shape in July 2010, officials said that one of the top goals in shaping the culture has been to build resiliency among Airmen.

"Airman resilience is a structured program designed to train Airmen in the physical, mental, social and spiritual fitness dimensions," said Lt. Col. John Jorgensen, Air Mobility Command's mental health consultant. "Of those dimensions in building a resilient Airman, one of the most important is mental fitness, which is part of AMC's Comprehensive Airman Fitness culture and is a crucial pillar."

In defining good mental fitness, an AMC talking paper on CAF states that it's about "approaching life's challenges in a positive way by demonstrating self control, stamina and good character with choices and actions," and seeking and offering help when it's required or needed.

"When our force (members are) mentally fit, they are better equipped to take on the every-day challenges presented by the Air Force and the military," Colonel Jorgensen said.

"We face deployments, high operations tempo, and other stressors that bring us challenges every day in dealing with our mental health," he said. "We, as Airmen, have to prepare ourselves and find the right combination of things in our lives that gives us the tools to cope and manage stressors as well as do things that bring us happiness. From that, we can achieve mental fitness."

Good mental fitness is a combination of many things together, including taking care of the body, said Maj. Patrick Pohle, the 628th Medical Group Mental Health Flight commander at Joint Base Charleston, S.C.

"Body and mind are interconnected," Major Pohle said. "When you exercise, your body releases endorphins and you start feeling better."

Lt. Col. Craig Stanaland, the 8th Medical Support Squadron commander at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, said that in building resiliency, it helps to first admit when there is a problem, and then act on the issue and get help when necessary.

"Being a wingman might mean asking awkward questions of a buddy, or stranger, who's acting overstressed. It might mean a conversation with a superior or outside resource agency. Doing the right thing, erring on the side of caution, can be a risky proposition. Step up. Your country and your Air Force are depending on you."

In the big picture, Colonel Jorgensen said that being mentally fit comes back to the person.

"Every person has (his) own set of beliefs, morals and core values," he said. "That's why we want people to embrace the CAF culture, because it combines the personal attributes of every person in life along with the knowledge from all of us in the 'military family' that we are all in this together. Don't be afraid to seek help when you begin a struggle, whether it's your wingman or one of the many helping agencies on base.

"Getting help early gets the problem under control before there are negative outcomes," he said. "No one Airman is ever alone, and that's why we say we're 'committed to caring' through CAF."