Importance of family in Airman resilience

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Lou Marnell
  • 86th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander
In the last few months, we have focused on our Airmen's resiliency in the forms of briefings, roll calls, training, down days and other forums to focus on our most important resource--our people.

As you recall from your training, the four pillars of resiliency are physical fitness, mental fitness, social fitness and spiritual fitness. Resiliency is working through challenges and taking advantage of the resources we have available to us. These resources are where we fair better than most of our corporate counterparts.

In my opinion, one of the biggest factors that helps lay the foundation for these pillars is that of the family. This can be in the form of our loved ones that are stationed with us or the role the military family plays in our resiliency. Again, it is this thought of the military family that really sets us apart from the rest of corporate America.

As military families, we have added stressors of long deployments, frequent moves, living in new parts of the world, major life changes and post-deployment adjustments. Now that I have stated what may be obvious, what can you as an Airman or us as leaders do to help with not only Airman resiliency but also family resiliency?

Our At Home Family

The same four pillars apply when it comes to our at home life. It's important not to feel like you're alone. When looking at physical fitness, make time as a family to workout together. You can do things as simple as taking a walk together once a week or going for a bike ride. You could also do like one of my senior leaders recently did, take a family course in Kook-Sul-Won. This family time brought them together and helped work out stress from work or school.

For mental fitness, it is important for families to communicate to work through issues. As my shirt and I talk with Airmen, communication seems to be the area struggling couples need to work on the most. Start with something simple, dinner as a family. For those who are geographically separated, as my wife and I are, set up a time to talk whether it's daily, or a couple of times a week. With today's technology, Skype or FaceTime make long-distance relationships a little more bearable.

When discussing social fitness, it is important to get out as a family and get involved in volunteer work, social clubs or other organizations to meet others with similar interests.

For spiritual fitness, the chaplains have great resources whether it's in the form of counseling, religious social groups or volunteer opportunities that you can do as a family to remain resilient.

Our Military Family

In our overseas environment, the military family plays a crucial role in our resiliency. Physical fitness is always important not only in our daily lives as service men and women, but it's also a great stress reliever. Physical fitness can also play a great role in team building. Intramural sports are a great way to build squadron pride.

For mental fitness, it is incumbent on the supervisors to "know their Airmen." If you notice someone is acting different, get involved and find out why. Once you break the ice, they may open up to you and let you know what is going on. Know what resources are available to you and your Airmen.

For social fitness, squadrons and work centers should plan on family-friendly events to bring everyone together. Booster clubs, organized trips and squadron picnics are great ways the squadron can help out.

Spiritual fitness is also important for our military family. This can be done through social groups, lunch-time bible studies or other events to highlight your spiritual needs.

Family readiness affects first-line leaders and Airmen readiness, which impacts missions for military leaders. First-line leaders may experience stressors in their own home life and know that these disruptions can cause stress for their unit members. It's important for leaders to encourage unit members to use the family resources that are available. Family centers offered by the military can help families stay resilient during, in between and after deployments. This, in turn, helps strengthen the health of the whole force.