PATRICK SPACE FORCE BASE, Fla. – At some point in life, everyone will face a challenge. All of us will face stress. How we react to those challenges and that stress is key to overcoming adversity and fostering resiliency.
Guardians, Airmen and Department of Defense civilians came together April 16 at Patrick SFB for “Resilience Day.”
The event featured speeches from Brig. Gen. Stephen Purdy, Space Launch Delta 45 commander, Heath Phillips, a U.S. Navy veteran and sexual assault survivor, and Elaine Larsen, a two-time world champion drag racer, as well as team building activities.
“Resilience Day is an opportunity to focus on strengthening our social, physical, spiritual and mental domains,” said Lorie Woodcock, Space Launch Delta 45 Installation Resilience Operations director. “We do this individually as we take in and build on new information, as a team by developing meaningful connections with our work teams and squadrons, and as a Delta when we come together to find common bonds and open ourselves to new ideas.”
Cultivating resilience is a priority for military leaders, Purdy said, because every member of the military community matters and everyone is needed for the mission.
“This is a really important opportunity (for us) to take a break,” Purdy said. “Resilience Day is a time for us to purposely take a break and think through what it means to be resilient. Take a break in our work activities and connect. It’s about all of us, Airmen, Guardians, civilians, contractors, families; everybody.”
The men and women of SLD 45 have supported dozens of space launches, numerous deployments, and advanced the strategic objectives of the United States, Purdy said. He also stressed that more challenges are coming and SLD 45 must be resilient and ready.
“We need each of you,” Purdy told a crowd of nearly 400 people. “There’s a lot of critical things going on in the world right now. Important activities America needs to be focused on both internally and externally. That’s what we’re in the business of doing; national defense. We have to continue to sharpen our focus as a nation and aggressively get after that. To do that, we need each of you to be strong and we need to be strong. We need to build up resilience in all of us.”
The Department of the Air Force Resilience Program equips Airmen with the knowledge, skills, and tools required to continually assess and adjust to their environment, according to the Department’s Resilience website. The program serves to empower people to maintain the necessary balance of cognitive skills, physical endurance, emotional stamina, social connectedness, and spiritual well-being to thrive and carry out the mission.
The Air and Space Force have Master Resilience Trainers and Resilience Training Assistants to teach skills at each base. Many of these bases also offer two Resilience Days a year in the spring and fall, something Patrick SFB and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station have done for several years.
“As one of the five objectives of the Guardian Ideal, integrated resilience focuses on being proactive with an emphasis on prevention rather than reaction,” Woodcock said. “Research has shown that resilience has a measurable impact on personal and professional performance and physical health. Within the Space Force, we know that a culture of integrated resilience takes that impact beyond the individual level to our work teams, our Deltas and to the Space Force as a whole.”
The mind is like a muscle, Woodcock said, and it is vital for the mind to be strengthened to overcome stress and challenges.
“It’s important to take time to intentionally focus on the social, physical, spiritual and mental components of resilience,” she said. “Doing so allows us to build and strengthen our resilience skills which expands our vision to see a wide variety of choices and options in front of us. That vision enables us to proactively work through stress and adversity.”
Phillips shared his story of resilience and how he was able to push through years of trauma after he was raped and beaten several times from August 1988 to June 1989 while serving in the Navy.
He said for more than two decades, because of all he endured, he felt alone, couldn’t sleep, abused alcohol, struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder, and at one point, he was suicidal.
Phillips encouraged everyone to engage with the people around them so they can help others overcome adversity.
“Have a conversation,” he said. “If you see someone who is usually smiling and all of a sudden they’re not smiling, find out what’s going on, ask,” he said. “We have to work together.”
Larsen spoke about the obstacles she encountered in the male-dominated field of drag racing and provided some tips on finding motivation in situations that could otherwise lead to frustration.
While she sat behind the wheel of her race car in 2008 before the start of a race, Larsen heard something she was not expecting over the public address system.
“‘Who wants to see this lady barefoot and pregnant back in the kitchen where she belongs,’” Larsen said the announcer asked the crowd.
After winning the race, Larsen ran up to the booth to confront the announcer.
“‘Are you kidding me?’” Larsen asked the announcer.
“’Yeah, didn’t you just kick that guy’s butt?” the announcer replied. “’I put that fire in your belly.’”
While she was upset in that moment, Larsen said she could not allow her emotions to get the best of her.
“How you react is the most important thing,” she said. “Getting mad doesn’t help. When you get mad you give away your power. If I give my power away by reacting in a negative way, that is not helpful. Control your emotions and take a beat. I always count backwards. I tell my son to ‘just catch a bubble,’ and try and think through your actions. Don’t allow that negativity to influence your actions.”
U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Adam Thaler, 45th Weather Squadron launch weather officer, said Resilience Day emphasized the importance of looking out for one another, which is something he plans to do for himself and his unit.
“It’s important because fostering resilience will make us a better and healthier force,” he said. “Everyone is going through something and we need to be able to connect and have those conversations. If just one person can be there for someone and make a positive change that can affect so many lives.”