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Commentary: Spring Wingman Day to focus on spiritual resiliency and fitness

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- "Resilient, Agile Workforce" ... this is the goal, the end-state of what we in the Office of the Command Chaplain desire for all of Air Force Materiel Command. We believe Comprehensive Airmen Fitness (CAF), which is founded on the Air Force's four domains of fitness (physical, mental, social and spiritual), can help build a resilient workforce. Our command's emphasis for this upcoming Spring Wingman Day will be on "Spiritual Fitness." This is arguably the least discussed and perhaps the most misunderstood domain of CAF. It can be a sensitive topic, but it does not have to be. With care, respect for one another and adherence to guidelines, we can have a very effective Wingman Day, while exploring spiritual fitness and its effects on building a "Resilient, Agile Workforce."

Gen. George C. Marshall, one of the greatest military generals in the history of our nation said, "Military power wins battles, but spiritual power wins wars." General Marshall went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize, reach the rank of 5-star general and serve as Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense. I submit that General Marshall was on to something when he made this statement, for he knew the value of all aspects and wholeness of life. Recent research shows there is empirical evidence linking spirituality and greater resiliency. In almost every case, there is an overwhelming "positive-ness" to being spiritual.  The evidence shows spirituality builds hope and optimism; counters depression; reduces suicide ideation; lessens anxiety; counters alcohol and substance abuse; raises relationship stability; and produces greater resilience, self-reflection and introspection.

According to AFI 1-1, Air Force Standards, "Every Airman is free to practice the religion of their choice or subscribe to no religious belief at all. You should confidently practice your own beliefs while respecting others whose viewpoints differ from your own. Every Airman also has the right to individual expressions of sincerely held beliefs, to include conscience, moral principles or religious beliefs, unless those expressions would have an adverse impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, good order, discipline, health and safety, or mission accomplishment." Further, AFPD 52-1, Chaplain Corps, states, "The Air Force places a high value on the rights of its members to observe the tenets of their respective religions. In addition, spiritual health is fundamental to the well-being of Air Force personnel and their families and is essential for operational success."

Despite the mention of religion in the Air Force references above, spiritual fitness is not synonymous with religious fitness. Religious fitness may be a subset of spiritual fitness, but it is not required to be. An individual's spiritual fitness may, by personal choice, incorporate religious belief, just as it may be grounded in other concepts such as patriotism, self-awareness or the common good.  Spiritual fitness has to do with our own way of looking at life with meaning, hope and inner peace. 

Spirituality is a complex and multidimensional part of the human experience. It has cognitive, experiential and behavioral aspects. The cognitive or philosophic aspects include the search for meaning, purpose and truth in life and the beliefs and values by which an individual lives. It also includes the emotional aspects and involves feelings of hope, love, connection, inner peace, comfort and support. Spirituality can be developed and may include those personal qualities that help sustain a person in times of stress, hardship and tragedy.  Some ways we develop our spirituality include -- but are not limited to -- humility, reading, reflection, worship, prayer or mediation, positive outlook, generosity and trusting others. However, it must be noted, not all will identify with or subscribe to the concept of spirituality. We respect that right of all individuals.

In the end, how spirituality is expressed is up to each individual, unless those expressions would have an adverse impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, good order, discipline, health and safety, or mission accomplishment. As stated earlier, this AFMC Spring Wingman Day will focus on the "Spiritual Fitness" domain of CAF. You will be invited to participate in a briefing at your location. We encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity. Additionally, some installations will have other voluntary opportunities to help you explore your spirituality. Your local helping agencies stand by ready to serve as we seek to build a "Resilient, Agile Workforce."