Operation Resiliency

FORT BRAGG N.C.,-- Chaplains across the XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg joined together to conduct Operational Resiliency on February 23.

Operation Resiliency is the first of many Holistic Health and Fitness (H2F) initiatives put together by Col. Tom Helms, the command chaplain for the XVIII Airborne Corps. Th event was an open-forum discussion about how chaplains, behavioral health experts, and local civilians can all help build and maintain resilient Soldiers.

The event centered around how important it is for leaders to integrate themselves to build strong bonds and trust among one another and their Soldiers.

"We often don't take very much time to have our caregivers get together and to see the people to our left and right," said Helms. "It's important to have events like this to touch base with everyone – behavioral health, advocacy groups, veterans, and even our pastors from the local community."

During the event, two guests spoke on their own experiences with resiliency. Donald McAlister, a retired command sergeant major, specifically mentioned the importance of receiving peer support from the people around him.

"I think that one thing that we don't think about is how important it is to connect with Soldiers and other people around you. At one point, I realized that peer support is not the only type of support," said McAlister. "What you come to understand is that pain is relevant; it doesn't matter what you've been through at the end of the day, all pain feels the same, and it's something that everyone can relate to."

He continued, "I would often say It's okay not to be okay, but yet when I was still in the uniform, I was constantly telling myself to suck it up. If I could go back and change anything, I think I would've been more open with telling people that I wasn't okay, too, at times to open that door for a conversation with the people around me."

Shani Phillips, a retired Southern California police officer, also mentioned the importance of integrating self-care into everyday life to stay resilient.

"My idea of self-care is finding things that give me purpose by helping people and taking on new projects that genuinely interest me. I also try to take a day so that I can decompress at least once a week to empty my cup," she said. "I now know my threshold and that I can be a hot head, so taking time out at least once a week is a way to be kind to myself and a great way to help regulate my emotions."

Throughout the event, guests proposed ideas and shared their perspectives.

"At the end of the day, we come to events like this to get inspired by one another and let each other know that we appreciate each other's contributions," said Helms. "But the bottom line is that we must act and do something. The goal for each person who attended today's forum is to be able to leave and do something different today than they did yesterday because they were inspired."

One of those chaplains who attended was Lt. Col. Michael McCawley, the command chaplain for the 35th Corps Signal Brigade. He said the training reminded him of his deployment to Iraq from 2006-2008, where his unit lost 18 Soldiers, and the importance of reaching out to those who you experience hardship with.

"This training struck a chord with me," McCawley said. "I should make contact with the Soldiers from that unit and do a retreat as a way to check-up on them."

Operation Resiliency is the first of many more H2F forums that will serve as a check-in between chaplains, behavioral health experts, and local leaders within the community; the goal is for each person that attends an Operation Resiliency event to leave equipped with new tools to take back and implement in their units.
Awesome last month