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Bend without breaking - resilience in action

  • Published
  • By Col. Mitchell Monroe
  • 571st Contingency Response Group commander
How far can we bend without breaking? That's the issue at the heart of how resilient we are.

The ability to bend without breaking requires personal skills and support, regardless of whether we're talking about physically, emotionally or mentally.

To develop those skills, we have to first admit that we simply can't handle everything life throws at us all by ourselves. As a good friend reminded me recently, even John Wayne needed help now and then. Just like stretching before we exercise so we don't hurt ourselves physically, we can also strengthen ourselves emotionally and mentally.

To learn how, we need to reach out for the help that's available. This help can come in a wide variety of forms, you can find tools on reputable websites like Military OneSource. You can talk to the caring professionals at the mental health flight. You can find any number of books at the base library.

I dare to say the best place to first reach out for help is a fellow Airman or civilian employee who you already spend more than 40 hours a week. To do so means believing that they are genuinely concerned with your well-being and can be trusted.

A perfect example of trusting one another is the subject of a movie now in the theaters, Red Tails. The success of the Tuskegee Airmen is due in large part to the fact that they had to rely heavily upon each other. When you're fighting on the home front and the Axis powers on the front lines, who else are you going to turn to?

Some years ago, I had a chance to sit down with one of their very best pilots, Lt Col (Ret.) Lee Archer. I asked him, what did he attribute the Red Tails' success? His answer was brilliant in how simple and yet how profound it was. He told me, "We had Benjamin Davis and we had each other."

It was this reliance upon each other and their rock solid leadership, that ingrained the importance in them of protecting each other as ferociously as they protected the bombers they escorted. If you read even a little about the famed Red Tails, you'll learn they stuck to their plan and never left their bombers or their wingmen behind.

Asking for help is a sign of strength and maturity; it's a measure of how well we know ourselves and know our limitations. Asking for help also takes courage. You have to be brave enough to take the leap of faith in your fellow Airman and our service.

Likewise, I can tell you from personal experience that taking action when you think someone might be at risk takes courage, too.

As proud members of the profession of arms, we willingly place ourselves in hazardous situations without concern for our own well-being. Yet, we often lack the courage to look an Airman in the eye and ask, "Are you OK?"

Being an Airman means belonging to a different culture than any other in American society. With that comes unique challenges and situations that no one else could begin to understand. If we don't reach out to our fellow Airman, who will? I challenge you all to trust in the service we so proudly serve and to be brave enough.