KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
Anxious, angry, lonely, frustrated, depressed, afraid, and numb are a few words that may describe what some people have been feeling amidst the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.
To help combat this as well as assist wing members, the 403rd Wing hosted a virtual resiliency class through Zoom May 2-3 for almost 250 Reserve Citizen Airmen at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi.
“With our April and May Unit Training Assemblies postponed, this online training is a great opportunity to develop our resiliency as well as provide us all with tools to deal with the difficulties presented by this pandemic,” said Col. Jeffrey A. Van Dootingh, 403rd Wing commander. “Learning about this topic virtually allows us to stay at home, safely away from any virus, but still connect socially. And, our resiliency is going to be tested more and more as this pandemic continues.”
Resilience, as defined by the Air Force, is the ability to withstand, recover and grow in the face of stressors and changing demands. In mission terms, it’s being mentally ready.
People vary in their levels of resilience, with some being more mentally tough and able to recover from life’s setbacks stronger than before; however, it is a skill that can be learned, said Chief Master Sgt. Monte Snyder, the performance process manager and master resilience trainer for the 403rd Wing.
Just like lifting weights allows a person to build muscle mass, a person can boost their level of resilience.
While experience in the form of setbacks, stressors and losses is one way to build mental endurance and resilience, the two-day course, which was four hours each day, provided members with some strategies, or a “Resiliency Toolkit,” for the short and long term. Snyder emphasized skill sets and tools to assist in developing resilience. This included information about gratitude or looking for the good, values based goals, bringing strengths, reframe or control how one reacts, balanced thinking, celebrating good news, mindfulness and physical resilience.
Snyder said the purpose of increasing resilience awareness and training is driven by the Air Force initiative to create a culture where Airmen are comfortable seeking and receiving assistance, which is even more imperative now with people staying at home and maintaining social distance.
This social isolation can take a toll. So, participating in the training let one 403rd Wing member know she wasn’t experiencing all these feelings of uncertainty alone.
Staff Sgt. Sarah Standish is a reservist with the 36th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron and serves as a resource management specialist and health services management craftsman. During the week she works full time as a civil servant in the 403rd Wing finance office as a budget technician.
“I have been isolated in my apartment for so long doing telework that it was great to experience a connection with everyone else throughout the wing,” she said about the training. “It was nice to know we aren’t having to do this alone, and we are all adjusting to these changes. This training was a great resource to our members in order to get through these uncertain times, and I am grateful that the 403rd Wing has been able to provide avenues to continue to support its members.”
While the course is complete, Snyder said that developing resilience is a continual process of building these skills into a person’s daily routine.
“This training provides life skills that can be used to better prepare yourself for whatever the future holds,” said the chief. “By preparing yourself mentally and physically for the now you will be able to better handle whatever comes your way, so you can handle the situation, perform well, and press on. By improving yourself and becoming a resilient person and leader we can perform better which only improves the unit and makes us all more efficient at accomplishing the mission.”
The wing plans to hold future resilience training as well as highlight other topics and course in this online format. More information will be provided about upcoming courses.