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Building resiliency in numbers

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas -- Most Airmen have probably heard the expression "there's strength in numbers." Most Airmen have also probably heard of Comprehensive Airmen Fitness. When it comes to building resiliency, the two are not unrelated.

The four domains of CAF are mental, physical, social and spiritual fitness, which enhance resilience in individuals, families and communities.

In the social domain, "strength in numbers" is an underlying theme. According to the Air Force's CAF program, it's important to develop and maintain trusted, valued friendships that are personally fulfilling and foster good communication, including exchange of ideas, views and experiences.

Finding comfort in the company of others, especially in times of anxiety or need, is social fitness.

The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury's Tips to Boost Resilience in service members Web page, suggests that people who receive support from a group have a better a chance of conquering bad health and may increase their sense of well-being.

The DCoE points out Airmen express their social traits differently, but when Airmen exhibit healthy social connections and behaviors, their units thrive. The stronger the unit is socially, the more resilient it will be.

It's important to have good relationships with family members, friends and other service members. Nevertheless, leaders can also help build social resiliency within their command by fostering a sense of camaraderie, providing a clear understanding of the mission and encouraging unit cohesion.

"What is most important is Airmen and leadership support those who may be facing challenges," said Lt. Col. Mitzi Thomas-Lawson, Mental Health Branch chief, Office of the Command Surgeon, Air Education and Training Command. "There are many indicators to let someone know a co-worker, friend, or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of mental illness or substance abuse.

"If you notice anyone isolating him or herself, try to draw that individual into group activities. And, above all, reach out if you or someone you know may need someone to talk to," Thomas -Lawson said.

And as Secretary of the Air Force, Deborah Lee James specifies in an Aug. 19, 2014, story on Air Force Link, "taking care of Airmen is one of the Air Force's top priorities.

"CAF supports my main priority by ensuring all people and families within our Air Force are taken care of by providing a great opportunity for us to grow resiliently in our careers and our personal lives," James said. CAF is a lifestyle and culture that focuses on making sound choices while building a thriving Air Force."

The holiday season provides many opportunities to gather with others, to laugh and bond, spend quality time with peers and family, and engage in healthy activities. The DCoE's website adds that social activity helps relieve stress, builds connections with others, and the uneasiness of missing family and friends.

Whether on a deployment or at home, Airmen should make sure to spend some of their downtime around others - even if it's something as simple as playing a game of catch, getting involved in base and community activities, playing music in a band or volunteering with a service community program.

Just as Patrick Henry, one of America's founding father's famously said, "United we stand, divided we fall." Airmen must band together to stay socially fit.
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