SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
The 50th Space Wing leadership team hosted Warrior’s Edge training in the base fitness center at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, Aug. 15.
The training, part of leadership’s efforts to improve communications and connections across the installation, included 140 mission partner and Air Force Space Command participants.
“We are making an investment in our people,” said Col. James Smith, 50th Space Wing commander. “We have some challenges here at Schriever and within the Air Force. As General [David] Goldfein, [Air Force Chief of Staff] said, ‘we don’t know how to solve this,’ but we are looking at a variety of things that can help.”
Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks head coach; Mike Gervais, sports psychologist; and retired Lt. Col. Jannell MacAulay, Air Force human performance consultant; developed the enhanced performance training.
“We’re focusing on the human weapon system which includes the body, craft and mind,” MacAulay said during her opening remarks. “In the Air Force, we spend the majority of time training our craft. We focus on the body but we rarely train our minds and how to use them to navigate daily stressors.”
To MacAulay, a central theme of the Warrior’s Edge training is mindfulness and reframing one’s perception of stress.
“We have the ability to command our minds to enhance our performance,” she said. “If we can use these tools in conjunction with our existing programs, we can change ourselves and train our teams to be in a better position no matter what comes our way.”
Though she was successful in the Air Force, at times MacAulay said she forgot how to laugh, lost sight of the love around her and lost sight of growth from learning from mistakes … she was always focused on what’s next.
“I was just trying to keep up in a competitive stress environment, it was almost considered a badge of courage how stressed you are,” she said.
MacAulay, a former pilot, began to heed the advice regularly given on airplanes.
“I started practicing self-care; I put my own oxygen mask on first before helping, or in this case leading, others,” she said.
The training walked through 16 principles and how they can influence one’s performance: mindfulness, calm, confidence, focus, trust, high performance, personal philosophy, vision, character, grit, control, optimism, think well, move well, eat/hydrate well and sleep well.
MacAulay and co-presenter Nicole Davis, who represented the U.S.A. on the women’s volleyball team in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, facilitated exercises to explain the 16 principles.
“I was part of a high performance team that was regularly ranked first in the world, but I didn’t have joy in the experience, my personal life was a mess, I never trained my mind,” said Davis. “I started investing in myself first so I can be there for others.”
A major portion of the Warrior’s Edge training is introspection and reflection to understand what is happening inside one’s self.
“The mere act of having a cell phone on a person increases distraction by 20 percent,” MacAulay said. “Our minds wander 50 percent of our awake time. We have to be aware this is happening so we can focus on the tasks and people in front of us.”
The training identifies focus as a decision, but refocusing as a skill.
“Refocusing takes practice, it’s like muscle training,” said MacAulay. “We have to do the reps and sets to see the results.”
Another key take away, is understanding some principles will have more impact for some than others.
For Davis it’s optimism and she engages every situation or person from a position of gratitude.
“Those who approach life with realistic optimism score higher in resiliency research,” Davis said. “What’s more, those who practice gratitude for just seven days demonstrated increased happiness six months later, even those suffering from depression.”
A simple way to practice gratitude is to write down three good things one witnessed or experienced each day for 30 days.
“If you can train optimism and reframe the narrative, you can increase your resiliency,” she said.
The training session lasted eight hours but was just the beginning of the program. Each participant will be enrolled in an 8-week digital training environment to do more internal exploration to reinforce concepts learned in the presentation.
Additionally, the presenters hosted two 1-hour sessions Friday, Aug. 16, to engage a wider base audience on the importance of mindfulness.
“I can honestly say if we applied everything we learned here today, we can change our culture and the direction of this wing,” said Smith to close the training. “We need your feedback. Please let us know what you thought of today, how the online training goes and how you see this impacting your teams.”
Col. Jack Fischer, 50th SW vice commander, echoed the commander and reiterated the importance of the feedback.
“We brought people in from across the command, we’re the pilot base for this program within the command,” said Fischer. “Your feedback will determine if this is something other bases should add to their resilience program to help our Airmen.”