IRON team hosts resiliency workshop for 919th SOW leaders

  • Published
  • By Michelle Gigante
  • 919th Special Operations Wing

For the fourth consecutive year, the Integrated Resiliency Optimization Network team welcomed the men and women of the 919th Special Operations Wing for the 2022 Building Resilient Leaders event.

The BRL workshop offered a weekend packed full of valuable information and activities for leaders and their families to enjoy along the Emerald Coast, at the Emerald Grande hotel, Destin, Florida, Sept. 16-18, 2022.  

“This year, we chose compassionate leadership as our focus and wanted to educate our leaders about the importance of empathy, while at the same time providing them with resiliency tools and resources to bring back to their units,” said Cynthia Duffey, IRON director of psychological health. “I think starting at the top with our leaders helps the overall health of the organization. Expressing compassion, taking care of ourselves, and others is at the heart of resiliency and makes for a more well-rounded and solid leader.”

The first day of the workshop included introductions from Col. Jason Grandy, 919th SOW commander and members of the IRON team. The IRON team is part of the Preservation of the Force and Family Peer to Peer Program, consisting of professionals from the social, spiritual, physical, and psychological pillars. They support special operation force members, families, and civilians with a comprehensive holistic approach to resiliency.

The team orchestrated an all-star line-up of guest speakers for the attendees, starting with Lee Floyd, Headquarters Air Force Reserve Command, chief diversity, and inclusion officer. Floyd led an interactive discussion about how decisions are sometimes flawed by ideologies and encouraged leaders to build relationships with transparency, vulnerability, and integrity. 

The second guest speaker to follow—Chad Robichaux, former Force Recon Marine and Department of Defense contractor with eight deployments to Afghanistan--shared his experiences as part of a Joint Special Operations Command Task Force. His speech provided a transparent testimony to the attendees about overcoming his personal battles with post-traumatic stress disorder and nearly becoming a veteran suicide statistic. He now leads a non-profit organization serving active duty, military veteran and first responder communities around the world. 

The message they shared resonated with 919th SOW members, and a few who participated in past BRL gatherings expressed their impressions of this year’s resiliency workshop. 

“I really enjoyed how Floyd defined diversity and inclusion, the importance of it, and loved how he talked about how it is about focusing on the mission,” said MSgt. Melissa Hill, 919th Special Operations Medical Squadron development and training flight chief. “Diversity and inclusion can become super removed at times from the idea of the mission, so I love how he focused on diversity and inclusion is about the mission, not about your color, not about your sexuality, it is about how we can lead people to get the mission pushed forward.”

MSgt. Christina Dean, 919th SOW command chief executive assistant, related to the topic of leading with transparency and vulnerability.

“I have been through a lot, postpartum depression, my dad committed suicide and my mom died eight months afterwards,” said Dean.  “I also had a couple major surgeries. I feel if I am asking someone to sit across the table from me and ask them why they are hurting, then I need to be willing to share those things too.”

 For the remainder of the three-day event, the IRON team invited a variety of subject matter experts from each pillar to discuss topics pertaining to their areas, such as sports medicine, nutrition, spiritual and family counsel and financial advice.

“I think we had some great speakers this year and the continued interest of our recurring members encourages us to make the BRL event better each year,” said Duffey. “We can learn what worked and didn’t work as well as what was missing.  We really took that into consideration this year.”

 Additional activities for families were provided, from trivia, animal encounter stations, hosted by the Emerald Coast Science Center, to even a pirate cruise along the marina to top the night off.

“I love the fact they included family members and did not just focus on the military members,” said Hill. “We want to build stronger leaders and we know we are more effective leaders when our families have an opportunity to join us in these resiliency events.”