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NEWS | May 18, 2011

From the Top - Resiliency...What I Learned from Elasti-Girl

By Col Jacqueline Van Ovost 89th Airlift Wing Public Affairs director

I loved the movie "The Incredibles." It was a classic good-versus-evil, values-based film. I particularly liked the character Elasti-Girl. A super flexible and dedicated spouse, Elasti-Girl is also a mother of three feisty children. She could change the size and shape of her body at will, save her husband and children from evil, fly a jet, and get completely flattened by a truck yet still recover to a size one figure. What I wouldn't give to have that kind of resiliency!

Back to reality though, I will never fit into a size one. Oh, and it doesn't take superhuman skills to cope with a demanding lifestyle either. But it does take a good attitude and an ability to keep things in perspective. To help us understand the importance of resiliency, the Air Force initiated Airmen resiliency training with a goal of providing training for Airmen and families to obtain balanced, healthy, self confidence.

I know you are all stretched thin like Elasti-Girl with work, inspections, family, relationships, volunteerism, sickness, aging parents, finances ... and the list goes on. This is why resiliency is a shared challenge with families, supervisors, peers, leadership, and support agencies. Together we need to ensure Airmen and families have the skills to succeed during potential physical and psychological challenges. It starts with educating our Airmen and units to be fully aware of their own resiliency levels. You may have stretched out and successfully bounced back to normal, but you need to know where your limit is to avoid the possibility of permanent damage. From there it is about growth; how we can best engage you and your family to provide opportunities to stretch and learn more about yourself and those around you. In turn, we need your feedback on how to structure helpful programs for you and your families. Maybe most importantly, as supervisors and wingmen we must show our support for help-seeking behaviors and not have a bias against seeking assistance of any kind.

An important part of developing your resiliency is connecting with others. Don't keep personal stressors, well, personal! Share your concerns with someone ... supervisor, peer, family or friend. Expressing yourself could lead to a good cry and a hug, or a laugh and a punch, but it is the start of a process that will make you feel whole again. It is the path to better communication with your family or co-workers. A courageous Airman brings up festering issues and takes positive steps to resolve. An engaged wingman knows when you are acting out of character and makes a point to bring it up and even assist in resolution.

This concept is nothing new; Airmen resiliency has always been key to health of the force and mission readiness. What we have come to realize is that resiliency is personal; one size definitely does not fit all. Understand just how resilient you are, connect with others and get into a positive routine that ensures you don't just survive but you thrive in the face of stressors and changing demands. Now, put on your elasti-suit and let's make each other stronger, healthier and happier.