CMSAF Wright to USAF: Resilience is Your Responsibility, Too

CMSAF Kaleth Wright challenged USAF airmen to practice resiliency in their everyday lives during a Sept. 20 keynote at AFA's Air, Space & Cyber Conference. Staff photo by Mike Tsukamoto.

CMSAF Kaleth Wright challenged USAF airmen to lead the charge when it comes to building a more resilient force in a Wednesday-morning keynote at AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference. He said that, while questions about how the service is stepping up efforts to better support airmen are valid, building “the airmen we need today” is a team effort that starts with them.

“You are the place you need to start if you want to become more resilient,” he said, speaking to the audience about resilience and “core characteristics” that today’s airmen need to succeed. “If you want to become stronger in the face of adversity, if you want to become uncomfortable, you should begin by taking responsibility for who you are, and for your life.”

No airman can control “everything that happens to” them, but they are always in charge of how they react to those circumstances, Wright said. While it can be easier to place the blame for one’s situation on outside factors, shifting the paradigm to one of self-responsibility is key to building stronger airmen.

He encouraged airmen to learn about and utilize both service-wide and installation-specific mental health, emotional support, and community resources.

“The Air Force is well on its way to doing its part to build resilient airmen,” he said. “You just have to use the resources we have available.”

Wright knows resilience isn’t developed overnight—he said it needs consistent practice.

“You weren’t born with resilience, no more than you born to be able to fly an F-35,” he said. “It’s a virtue that’s built over time.”

But he did offer a handful of strategies they could start with.

First, he said, search for meaning in your life.

“Why do you exist?” he asked the crowd. “Why do you get out of bed in the morning?”

Next, he advised, rather than trying to do life alone, “develop a strong social network.”

Third, he said, “embrace change.” The Air Force needs to keep up with a rapidly shifting world, he said, so airmen can’t expect the force to wait around for them to decide when flexibility is convenient.

Fourth, he said, teach yourself how to solve problems.

Lastly, he emphasized the importance of self care. He reminded airmen to “put your mask on first”—or prioritize their your own wellness before that of others—and look after themselves “physically, mentally, and spiritually.”

Though taking the lead on your own life may be daunting, he said, “responsibility is power.”

“Resilient choices equal resilient airmen,” he said.