by Staff Sgt. Benjamin W. Stratton
92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
8/25/2014 - FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- As
a pillar of Comprehensive Airman Fitness, maintaining and strengthening
individual spirituality is a primary component for one's overall
well-being. Similar to a sine wave, everyone has ups and downs, but it's
their spirituality that gets them to the next day.
No matter the faith background, where a person is from or who their
family is, everyone has some sort of spirituality to lean on during both
the hard times and the fun ones.
"Spiritual resilience is about fueling and refueling your heart and
soul--that inward part of you that gives you purpose and meaning and
helps makes sense of your life and experiences," said Chaplain (Capt.)
Jeffrey Solheim, a 92nd Air Refueling Wing chaplain.
The chaplain says spiritual resiliency is about having a sense of
purpose and that those values are meant to sustain one's sense of
"Refueling the soul has concrete benefits that contribute to a service
member's well-being and the total Airman concept," he said. "Studies
have shown that spiritual resilience increases optimism, decreases
anxiety and depression, and leads to fewer suicides and greater marital
Service members encounter many situations most will never fathom. These
experiences build one's character as they develop their leadership
styles. Such styles, the chaplain says, should always incorporate
"As leaders in today's Air Force, we need to find our own spirituality
as it can promote unit cohesion that isn't necessarily tied to religious
affiliation," Solheim said. "We're expected to seemingly know
everything and be able to handle a workload that increases with every
budget cut. Spiritual resilience adds strength and purpose that acts as a
counterbalance to increased stressors. We are far more balanced and
productive when we sense meaning and purpose in our lives and work."
In 2009, the Department of Defense conducted a psychological study
showing how spirituality has helped service members cope with difficult
situations and traumatic events. The study found most use spirituality
to help cope with multiple deployments, combat stress or injury. The
research also found that it helps protect from experiencing what they
called, "moral injuries," which can occur from either participating in
or witnessing certain acts during war that may conflict with one's moral
The goal of the spiritual domain is to develop and/or determine a sense
of purpose in life and the mission. Examples of this include: highlight
an individual's connection to the mission, teach goal setting, encourage
mindfulness, showcase mission delivery highlights, emphasize religious
accommodations and develop spiritual reminders.
Fairchild's community support coordinator, Dawn Altmaier, said that it's
important for today's leaders to realize everyone looks at spirituality
differently while promoting tolerance of other's beliefs and practices.
"We all have our own personal core values," she said as she explained
that the tenets of spirituality include one's core values, as well as
perseverance, perspective and purpose. "These tenets guide who we look
to for spiritual resilience, whether that be to nature, our family,
parents, mentors or religion, everyone has a very different way they
cope with change and it's important for leaders to understand these
The spiritual domain makes people take a step back and look at a situation from different vantage points, Altmaier continued.
"Without this respect, unit cohesion and readiness may be negatively
impacted, dragging down our distinctive mission sets," she said. "We
need to be supportive of our warriors by connecting, caring and
celebrating our diversity in spirituality as one of our many strengths
as service members and Americans."
[Editor's note: The Air Force Space Command Public Affairs, Air
Force Reserve Command Public Affairs and the Defense Centers of
Excellence Psychological Health office contributed to this article and
is part three of a four part feature series highlighting the
Comprehensive Airman Fitness program at Fairchild.]