The 435th Air Base Wing and 86th Airlift Wing will soon be declaring ENDEX on our next-to-last opportunity to exercise our collective employment capabilities, leaving us with only one more practice session before the Phase II Operational Readiness Inspection in late March. Over the last few months of field exercises, 640 Airmen have been battling eyeball-freezing temperatures, long hours, clumsy chem gear and a rigorous schedule of scenarios designed to test their ability to survive and operate their respective deployed missions.
Despite this, I am frankly amazed that we somehow are able to rise above the mere survival mode. But it’s clear to me that our multiple successes can be attributed to one critical aspect of the profession of arms: readiness.
Readiness comes in many forms, but the most influential contributor to unit readiness is the individual. Each of us in uniform has an inherent responsibility to be fit to fight and win the nation’s wars. So compiled below are just a few of those “fitness” factors that make up a ready Airman:
Physical fitness: Being physically fit prepares you to handle the physical, psychological and emotional stresses associated with deployments away from familiar surroundings, routines, friends and family. If your PT test results don’t convince you of your relative fitness levels, then you’ll get immediate validation the first time you find yourself dodging that mortar attack running to a bunker wearing your IBA-4 and full battle rattle. Start right away getting physically fit, and then stay fit. You’ll thank yourself when you hit 40.
Emotional fitness: You need to anticipate that you will go through a range of emotions before, during and after your deployment. Fear happens – fear of getting hurt, fear of not being able to do the job, fear of losing friends or loved ones, or even just fear of doing a new job at a new location. What’s important is the ability to recognize when you or your wingmen begin to obsess over these emotions. Be on the lookout for co-workers who become unusually absorbed in their emotional world, and seek help.
Financial fitness: We’ve become so good at providing all the creature comforts at deployed locations that the need to spend money just isn’t really there, and so your bank account starts to swell. Be wary that this is a temporary condition. The community merchants will be very happy to help you get rid of your surplus, so be wary of credit terms and conditions. Build a deployment budget for yourself and your family, and stick to it.
Records fitness: Having your personal records in order before you deploy allows the family back home to take care of your needs without burdening you with needed signatures and consultation, and likewise allows them to sustain their daily routines autonomously. Secure your important documents (wills, insurance policies, billing information, tax records, etc.) in a safe deposit box and let a trusted agent know how to access them if needed. Powers of Attorney may be required, but make sure you carefully consider who you give this power to.
Relationship fitness: It’s a fact that deployments stress relationships, and may even permanently alter even the most solid foundations and routines.
However, this is often a good thing. Change isn’t always bad. Sometimes it’s way overdue, so look on the bright side. While you may think your spouse is handling things “A-OK” back home during your absence, don’t kid yourself – it’s never easy. In terms of preserving relationships, the best way to prevent cracks in the facade from turning into crumbling foundations is to communicate. And take the time to listen. Take advantage of all the communication methods available to you – e-mail, calling cards, DSN morale calls, etc. Call often, and let your kids tell you about the macaroni shell pictures they made at school.
Spiritual fitness: Almost everyone has some spiritual base they turn to in times of crisis or vast change. Use it. To alleviate everyone’s fears and anxiety, returning to your faith may be the single most important link in your readiness chain. Above all, have faith in yourself.
(Information courtesy of Chief Master Sgt. Dave Miller, 435th LRS operations superintendent)