By Lauren Kelly, 507th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
/ Published February 12, 2021
Captain D’Anthony Harris, who coordinates psychological health initiatives for the Air Force Reserve Command’s Yellow Ribbon Program, delivers a presentation on the importance of resiliency during a Yellow Ribbon event Jan. 23, 2021. Harris stressed the need to build a resiliency profile that is made up of four parts: building optimism and positive emotions, establishing a personal moral compass, practicing mental and emotional flexibility, and focusing on meaning and purpose.
During the Jan. 23-24 virtual Yellow Ribbon event, keynote speaker Capt. D’Anthony Harris delivered a speech on resiliency and how to build a four-part resiliency profile in order to equip Airmen and their families for life’s challenges.
According to Harris, who coordinates psychological health initiatives for the Air Force Reserve Command’s Yellow Ribbon Program, a profile is constitutional to what governs you in good and bad times and it is a vital tool to develop.
“It is not enough to just have a sentiment of resiliency,” said Harris. “The hallmark of the Yellow Ribbon program is adding to your resiliency profile so that when things emerge in your life, you’re able to respond effectively.”
Harris likened the point at which things become truly challenging to when an automobile’s tires hit pavement.
“When the rubber meets the road, our sense of resiliency will be tested,” said Harris. “Not everyone will respond to adversity the same way due to differing life experiences, support systems and spirituality. Many of our service members have walked away from relationships, lost hope and optimism or chose to give up serving altogether.”
Senior Master Sgt. Nate McReynolds, a first sergeant with the 301st Fighter Wing at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas, attended the briefing and said he gained insight from Harris’ words.
McReynolds, who has experienced multiple layoffs in his civilian employment, loss of family members as well as starting and then closing down a small business, said he can attest to the importance of a resiliency profile.
“If I count all the misfortune, I could go on and on,” McReynolds said. “I probably have every reason to stop and call it a day. In fact I had a lot of bad days. But I learned from each experience and when I hit the next one, I knew I could get through it because of past experience.”
According to Harris, a solid resiliency profile is made up of four parts: building optimism and positive emotions, establishing a personal moral compass, practicing mental and emotional flexibility, and focusing on meaning and purpose.
Building optimism and positive emotions
Positive psychology builds optimism by deciding to focus on what is right the person or the situation, not about what’s wrong with the person or the situation.
“Those were hard times during my career, but the positives in my life were when my wife and I brought home our children in 2007 and 2011, my civilian and military promotions and when I became a first sergeant,” McReynolds said.
Establishing a personal moral compass
Solid morals and values inspire people to keep pushing through the hard times. Establishing values is just as important as communicating those values to others in order to establish boundaries.
“Identify six people who are important to you,” said Harris. “Think of the values they embody, and challenge yourself to adopt those values in your own life.”
Practicing mental and emotional flexibility
Accept that some factors cannot be controlled, such as particular circumstances, perceived misfortunes or origins in life. People can only control how they respond to adversity and are able to choose what happens next.
“We are not defined from the deflating moments in our lives,” said Harris, who has personal experience overcoming adversity. For a time, he lost the desire to serve altogether after a senior leader advised him to pull his commissioning application package, saying he would never be selected.
“I felt that I had given so much,” said Harris. “It was tough to hear that someone thought my qualifications weren’t good enough. As much as I had talked resiliency, I had not created a solid resiliency profile for myself.”
He said he realized his profile was not updated or extensive enough, leading him to discover new possibilities and ultimately Harris gained his commission.
Focusing on meaning and purpose
Don’t focus on the past because the challenges of the past have paved the way to the present. Look inward and ask what is necessary to make today successful.
“I use my experiences to relate to my members,” said McReynolds. “I have had a lot of bad days, but I have had a lot of great moments that completely overwhelm the negative.”
Airmen should self-inspect their profiles regularly and use all available resources and helping agencies such as the chaplain, military and family life counselors, the Airman and Family Readiness center and first sergeants and supervisors and wingmen.
“Remember to care about those who are struggling alongside you,” said Harris. “Keep building your profile up, so that when the rubber meets the proverbial road in your life, you’ll be ready.”
The mission of the Yellow Ribbon Program is to connect Reserve Airmen and their loved ones with information and resources that will help them before, during and after deployments.