The path to resiliency

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- My personal story of resiliency started growing up in Bogota, Colombia where I learned that integrity pays off. During this time, I survived illegal drug cartel violence that killed thousands of Colombians each year. I am thankful I grew up during these difficult times, because I know that these experiences prepared me not only to survive, but to succeed. When I was sixteen years old, I seized the opportunity to immigrate to the United States. I knew that if I worked hard and was resilient, I could fulfill my dreams and accomplish my goals.

Once in the U.S., my stepfather taught me leadership, honor, respect and--most importantly--he taught me how to overcome difficulties. I didn't know it at the time, but he taught me how to be resilient. I firmly believe that what he taught me has been the key to my success. After the tragic events on September 11, 2001, I knew I had to protect and serve the country that afforded me the opportunity to fulfill my dreams.

After enlisting in the Air Force, I gave my all to my country, the United States. I have had to overcome several barriers along the way, but my hard work and dedication has paid off. I was awarded the Air Transportation Apprentice Course Top Graduate AETC Commander's award and was selected to attend the coveted Air Mobility Command Phoenix Stripe conference. I also earned a promotion to master sergeant four years ahead of the Air Force average.

Although I have been personally successful, I am most proud of my ability to reach out to Airmen going through difficult times. I am able to do this by relating to them using my life experiences as a point of reference. As a young staff sergeant, one of my Airmen confided in me his intention to harm himself. That was by far the most difficult situation that I have encountered in my life. I was able to find the help he needed to ensure his safety. It was a long road to recovery for him, but I was able to empathize with him and help encourage his mental resiliency. The most rewarding part of this process was when I served as the link between the Airman and the Veterans Affairs office and ensured his smooth transition into the civilian world. Now, I am glad to know that he has overcome his adversities and is enjoying life. That is resiliency.

Everyone has endured difficult times. We as leaders need to pass our knowledge and experiences to our Airmen to teach resiliency. Just like in the 90's when I lived in Colombia, I knew that I would be able to overcome adversity.

In today's Air Force, where Airmen are deployed to every corner of the globe and where many are facing uncertainty, we need to lead the charge. As leaders, we are responsible to ensure our men and women are mentally strong to overcome the adversities and barriers in their path. Our Airmen deserve our utmost care. We must protect our most valuable resource because one life lost is one too many.