Commentary Search

Think, stay engaged, own the fight

  • Published
  • By Capt. Kenneth Jenkins
  • 90th Operations Group Stan/Eval Flight
What comes to mind when you hear the word resiliency? For some, it may bring thoughts of sitting through a commander's call or meeting when you would rather be somewhere else. For others it might mean being a wingman, leader, or warrior.

But what does the word resiliency mean to the Air Force?

In its 2011 Military Health Systems Conference, the Air Force described resiliency as the, "ability to withstand, recover and/or grow in the face of stressors and changing demands."

So is it possible? I know we have all heard that the Air Force is drawing down and we need to do more with less. The demands of the Air Force require that we find a way to meet objectives in a fiscally constrained environment. In one way or another, we have all encountered different obstacles where we needed to remain resilient to reach a specific outcome.

With those factors taken into consideration how do we become resilient?

I think of resiliency through the eyes of a personal affirmation I use: "Think, stay engaged, and own the fight."


Think about this: "Why does the mission need me?"

The mission needs you because you are important. You have been trained in a skillset that is unique within the Air Force, regardless of whether you are a helicopter pilot, a missile field chef, a nuclear operator or a maintenance technician. The skills you have been taught makes you important to the mission.

Another reason the mission needs you is your unique background, education, approach to problems, etc. These attributes support your skillset in accomplishing the mission, and make you a critical asset.

Think:  "Can I make things better?"

If you can ask yourself how to improve a task when approaching it, you are practicing resiliency. Remember, growth in the face of stressors is a big part of our resiliency definition. Knowing that you have the capability to better the mission will help incorporate actions to help you overcome stressors.
A great example of this can be found in Senior Airman David Papajcik, who works the missile maintenance schedule for the wing.

Missile maintenance has a busy job coordinating the efforts of hundreds of members and parts across the missile field. The workload steadily increases as missiles break, vehicles break and launch control centers break.

Papajcik and the missile maintenance scheduling office understand the importance of their mission and have thought carefully on how they can make the process better. They have employed maintenance meetings with the base to ensure priority items are fixed, incorporated an internet site so other agencies can plan for the next day's tasks and even incorporated low priority tasks into their process.
When thinking about how they can make it better, Papajcik and his team have incorporated methods that have elevated resiliency across the entire nuclear enterprise.

Think: "Am I positive?"

Phrases like, "I can make a difference," and "I will support the team," are power phrases containing power words. They might sound cheesy, but saying these can slowly change your mindset when approaching problems.

If you think that you don't make a difference, it's inevitable that this will negatively affect how you perform. The opposite is true for the person who says to themselves that they will make a difference. These thinking tools will ultimately build the resiliency of yourself and others.

Stay Engaged

A question I ask myself to stay engaged with the mission is, "Who are my people?" If you are a supervisor, then you know who your people are, but what if you haven't made it to that point in your career?

In this case, your people are the ones you work with and those you interact with. Sometimes, we have to reach across the aisle to engage with people. Growing up, my father would tell me that it was, "Nice to be nice," and he is right.

Staff Sgt. Nick McKinney, a security forces flight security controller, is a perfect example of someone who stays engaged.

As an operator, whenever I go to a site where McKinney is working, I know we can handle any issue that arises because we have learned about each other. We both know where the other is from and we know we share common friends -- both in and out of the work place. How did we get to this point without even being introduced? By staying engaged with one another.
When we share expectations, we open the door to exchange conversations, and learn a lot about each other. If the expectation is flawless nuclear operations as a team, everyone has a role in ensuring others are engaged in the mission.

This is what McKinney does so well as an FSC. He ensures the missile combat crew members know the status of his team and the launch facility security situations, and that his members know the next day's maintenance and what support roles they must fulfill. All in all, McKinney stays engaged with the mission and ensures everyone on his team does the same.

Own the Fight

The most important of the three methods is to own the fight. In everything you do, own it. At home, at work, and as a community leader.

There are many ways to own the fight. Some include submitting recommendations for your enlisted performance reports, awards packages, and officer's performance reports beforehand so you know what you want reflected of your efforts when the time comes.

Another is to create a 5-year plan. In a 20 year career, you can create four short term goals to help you reach an end result. You can say to yourself, "In five years, I want to make technical sergeant. Here's how I am going to get there." Plans are always helpful, because you can measure yourself against them.

Capt. Carmilya Boykin, 320th Missile Squadron, uses a method that I incorporate to own the fight: we think about the mission as "my mission, my fight."

Anyone who knows Boykin knows that she embodies all the positive traits discussed here. She approaches the mission knowing that her success is directly tied into the success of her team.

In the field she includes the team on major decision points, engages with younger crew members to ensure they are comfortable in their decision making, and incorporates a team aspect with others she encounters outside of her unit. Carmilya embodies the "perfect as a team" concept, and that is how she owns the fight.

Another example is Alan Turing, the father of the modern day computer.

During World War II, while under stress from those who thought he would best serve by fighting rather that working on machines, Alan Turing decided his war-time mission was to use his talents to break the German Enigma encryption machine. By focusing on why the mission needed him, being determined, telling himself he would accomplish the impossible, involving his team and owning the fight, he was able to reach his goal and saving what experts say is more than 14 million lives.

There are many ways to strengthen your resiliency; those listed are just a few of what I personally employ. It is important to adapt resilient methods that fit your personality.

Being resilient becomes part of your lifestyle over time. When you develop your approach to solving problems, you create the ability to find multiple routes to a solution when a problem arises.

Efficient and effective thinking lends itself to staying engaged. Whether at work or at home, staying engaged is important to a successful life. Staying engaged helps you understand the situations that others around you are facing, and the efficient and effective thinking you have mastered will become a useful resource helping those you care about.

Always remember that you have the ability to affect positive change while ensuring resiliency is prevalent in your life--by thinking, staying engaged, and owning the fight!