Citizen Air Commandos, families attend resiliency summit

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. James R. Wilson
  • 919th Special Operations Wing
More than 50 Citizen Air Commandos and families participated in the fifth annual Building Resilient Leaders event here Sept. 22-23, 2023.

The theme of this year’s summit was “Leading from the Middle” and geared toward noncommissioned and junior officers seeking tools and resources to help Airmen develop their leadership skills.

“I’m grateful for opportunities like this when we get to come together as a family and learn skills that are instrumental in our growth personally and professionally,” said Col. Jason Grandy, 919 Special Operations Wing commander.

He went on to share a few lessons of his own learned through more than 25 years of service to the Air Force.

“Life is not easy…in fact, it’s often really hard,” said Grandy. “Don’t try and make things easier for your Airmen. Try and make it better for them. Give them tools and resources to navigate difficult situations. It’s a much better gift to impart.”

Grandy also talked about the importance of connection, community, purpose. He told those in attendance to find ways to provide each of those qualities to Airmen and to find ways to show members they have value and purpose.

The keynote speaker was Col. (Ret.) Ed Hubbard, a former Air Force navigator whose aircraft was shot down flying combat missions over North Vietnam on July 20, 1966. His aircraft was struck by two surface to air missiles which destroyed both wings and sent him careening towards the ground at more than 600 miles per hour. Although he managed to eject from his aircraft, he was captured hours later and spent the next six and a half years in a Vietnamese prison.

The experience changed his life and his perspective on dealing with adversity.

“For the first five months, I wasn’t sure I would survive [captivity],” said Hubbard, who along with his fellow prisoners found ways to keep their minds sharp and to maintain hope despite being held in a 6 by 6 foot room for years on end.

His diet consisted largely of rice and water which caused his weight to drop from 175 pounds to a mere 98 pounds when he was finally released in 1973.

“Competition helped us survive,” said Hubbard. “It gave us a sense of purpose each day.”

Hubbard said he and other prisoners managed to compete with each other in simple ways such as challenges to see who could perform the most sit ups and push ups and even jumping rope (fashioned by bed sheets).

His perspective changed five months and one day after becoming a Prisoner Of War and embracing the benefits of competition. He hasn’t had one bad day since then – a remarkable feat spanning more than 57 years.

Hubbard said attitude is everything.

“Today’s fighting force is not here to be mediocre,” said Hubbard. “We’re here to be better…that’s the name of the game. So it’s incumbent on each of you to continue raising the standard. The world is filled with challenges and it’s up to each individual [who is serving] to ensure we are ready to defend our nation’s interests."

Attendees also received tips on achieving a healthy work life balance from Mr. Breyson Johnson, who shared lesson from his journey as an Active Duty master sergeant, husband and father.

“When it comes to burnout, we all carry our weight differently,” said Johnson. “Burnout often occurs when we’re constantly pushing ourselves to try and achieve perfection or live up to someone else’s expectations.”
Johnson said choices Airmen make which place more stress and responsibilities on themselves.

Steps Johnson shared for bouncing back from burnout included clearing schedule, reprioritizing daily responsibilities, finding work/life harmony, learning to say no, slowly resuming a comfortable speed for day to day life and continue developing personal and professional skills.

The summit also included a panel discussion in which three senior enlisted members from the 919th SOW shared lessons on how to navigate difficult situations. It concluded with classes on communicating across generations and tips to help Airmen successfully manage personal finances.