Combat programs ease stress with structure

Chief Master Sgt. Gary Coleman
U.S. Air Forces in Europe

***image1***Force shaping, doing more with less, increased deployments: For many people in today’s Air Force these words bring about feelings of stress and anxiety. But really, if you think about it, we are less stressed as a force than we have been in quite some time.

On an Air Force level, the creation of the Air Expeditionary Force provides us with a more predictable and stable work environment. Our support of operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom, combined with the various humanitarian missions we routinely perform, means our operations tempo has increased.

However, the AEF rotational structure provides a way for us to know our deployment eligibility period. We can better plan, both at home and at work, for these changes. Planning is a key element in reducing stress.

The changes in the Air Force fitness standard may have been a painful transition for some of us, but it has also made us stronger. The standard ensures that we’re a more fit expeditionary force. And, as we all know, being physically fit helps to reduce stress in our lives.

Closer to home, the Combat and Special Interest Programs instituted within U.S. Air Forces in Europe play a vital role in ensuring we are ready to fight and postured to respond anywhere in the world. But, they do more than that; they are programs to help us grow – spiritually, mentally, physically and emotionally. These same four dimensions of wellness enhance our resilience and prepare us to weather the storms and stressors of work and our lives in general.

Programs like Project CHEER, which creates an environment of enthusiasm for our single and unaccompanied Airmen when they arguably need it most, offers them the opportunity to be involved in high-energy events throughout the year. This program is particularly valuable in the winter months when being separated from family can be stressful.

Another program, Combat Intro/Exit is designed to streamline and ease the process of base in- and out-processing. Through this program, as many as 15 inprocessing stops were eliminated at some bases; eliminating many additional stress factors that go along with the process. Stress is further relieved through the Virtual Inprocessing system by increasing the number of pre-arrival actions members can take and by providing more information earlier to inbound members.

And through Combat Care we’ve focused on easing the stress of our spouses and family members. This program is designed to improve the care, attention and information flow spouses and families receive while we’re deployed. It’s also designed to support military members who deploy here within our area of operations.

There’s no doubt that our increased operations tempo has the potential to increase our stress levels. But, it’s important to take a step back and look at the big picture. Whether talking about the Air Force or within USAFE, there’s a myriad of programs in place to make our lives easier and more structured. And more structure means less stress.

USAFE’s newest Combat Program, Combat Wingman, capitalizes on looking out for one another through the employment of a sacred contract that promotes a genuine concern for our fellow Airmen and their wellness. I ask that you embrace this program and incorporate it into your day-to-day life. But, also examine yourself and your life internally.

Don’t let the buzz word of the day guide your stress levels. We may be busier mentally, but we’ve also created a more structured and less stressed Air Force environment.