Commentary by Lt. Col. Kevin Mortensen
3rd Space Operations Squadron commander
What is “resiliency”? In simple terms, resiliency is the ability to bounce back from adversity — adversity that occurs for reasons beyond our control and reasons for which we have total control. It’s the internal fortitude that allows us to pick ourselves up by the boot straps and continue on when we are faced with a challenging situation.
In the Air Force, many of us are provided resiliency training as it relates to deployment, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide prevention. Those “situations” certainly point to the worst challenges we could face in life. It could be said the way we handle the most dramatic situation is developed through practiced resiliency as it pertains to what we perceive as the least dramatic situation. We have all heard the saying, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” But what makes it easy for one person to do so and for others not to? The very simple answer is that we are all different — we are all unique individuals who see things differently and handle stresses or challenges in our own way. In most situations, resiliency boils down to making a personal decision to give up or keep going.
The good news is that resiliency can be strengthened if we focus on the core aspects of our lives, which are referred to as the “four pillars” — mental, physical, financial and spiritual. The mental aspect of resiliency focuses on demonstrating self control and character when faced with challenges. One way to develop this is by taking the time to realize that our core values are more than just words we had to memorize in basic training. Integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do are key to building a character that is resilient.
The physical aspect focuses on performing and excelling through exercise, nutrition and training. A healthy person is a resilient person.
The financial aspect ensures that we are educated and diligent in the way we handle our personal affairs and take care of our families’ needs.
Finally, the spiritual aspect includes strengthening our beliefs and values and leaning on them so much so that each is so strong nothing can penetrate them. The idea behind maintaining all four pillars is that if one falters, leaning on the others will allow us to remain resilient in whatever situation we find ourselves.
We all know of people who have faced adversity, whether great or small. Some examples include divorce, death of a loved one, major injury, Article 15 proceedings, etc. I have to say as I look at that list, my bit of “adversity” seems not so “adverse” in the large scheme of things. Before I became the 3 SOPS commander, I did the unthinkable and failed a physical fitness test. In my mind, I didn’t just have a performance report on the line — I had my credibility, people and commanding opportunity on the line. I could have given up. For 28 years I have worked hard to finally achieve my destiny — a command position. I had to pass that test. Winston Churchill has wisely stated, “Never, ever give up.” I didn’t give up. I passed that test with a 89 percent, my best score ever. My hope is that others, especially those in 3 SOPS, don’t just see that I failed, but they see that I failed and then prevailed.
When faced with adversity, one has to realize deep down that the situation will improve. Look beyond the present and decide, “Am I going to let the situation define my life, or am I going to keep my head up and live my life to the best I can in spite of the situation?” I believe that adversity spawns opportunity so I’m going with the second option. “Bring It”!