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Lift your spirit up

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Spirituality is one of four Air Force pillars of wellness, and each is vital to the Air Force mission.

Spiritual fitness is about having a sense of purpose and meaning in your life. It is essential to building one's individual resiliency and strengthening a set of beliefs, principles or values that sustain his or her sense of well-being and purpose, according to the Air Combat Command website.

"In the Comprehensive Airmen Fitness curriculum, we teach a module that concentrates on the spiritual pillar," said Corey Coleman, 325th Fighter Wing master resilience trainer. "The goal of that module is to strengthen those beliefs, principles or values that sustain that sense of purpose and well-being."

To help endure a spiritual mindset Tyndall has chaplains and resilient instructors that can help with the Air Force Comprehensive Airman Fitness spirituality pillar.

"Spiritual resiliency is about what's at your core, that thing that drives you to get up every morning despite whatever could be going wrong in your life," said Tech. Sgt. Javier Cruz, 325th FW resiliency training assistant. "It is different for everyone. It could be your religious beliefs or it could be the desire to provide for your family. It's not just about the big moments in life that take the wind out of you. Sometimes we get caught in that downward spiral where nothing is going right and is just a series of bad events piling up. That's why it's so important to be aware of our inner strength and know how to consciously access it."

Whether in times of war or peace, Airmen have to be spiritually fit to complete the mission.

"If you are not fit for the fight, you can break the mission," said Lt. Col. Tim Rosenthal, 325th FW chaplain. "You have to be spiritually fit to endure the rigors of war.

Being spiritually fit is just as important as being physically fit.

"Spiritual fitness is much like physical fitness," Rosenthal said. "Whatever and however we define spirituality is up to us as far as the Air Force is concerned.  They simply want to know if we are spiritually fit and if we are able to handle what can possibly happen.  When bullets are whizzing by, it is not time to be asking questions about life and death or end up with an existential meltdown.  We need to be centered and have a good idea about life's big questions before we land in a combat zone.  If we are not spiritually fit and our 'head is not in the game,' it could break the mission.

"A broken arm can be is relatively easy set back, but a broken spirit is difficult to mend in a war situation," said Rosenthal, talking about how difficult it can be to discuss spiritual matters and finding peace.

The question is whether individuals have defined what spirituality means to them, a question often unanswered by many people.

"I hope people begin to embrace the importance of it with the same level of intensity that they see the need for physical fitness, medical readiness, and all other types of readiness that we must maintain," Rosenthal said.  "Having a spiritual center will help you navigate through those difficult waters much easier and serve the mission of the Air Force better."

Unfortunately, a lot of people have not engaged their spiritual life.  They are spiritually flabby.  Being spiritually fit is a journey of meaning and purpose, whether that journey is philosophical, spiritual or religious, Rosenthal added.

A spiritual reminder can be helpful in recalling values or beliefs when facing adversity, whether it is a phrase, object or photograph of a loved one.

"Life has a funny way of knocking us down, sometimes repeatedly, but how we get back up defines us," Cruz said. "Some people need physical or mental reminders of their inner strength to give them a tangible hold to help refocus while facing a difficult situation. Chances are you already have a spiritual reminder, and it is a natural reaction that you may not realize you have. Learning to recognize and understand how to use it is key to fortifying your individual resiliency."

Fortunately, resources are available in helping individuals increase their spirituality.

"There are so many resources that people can explore," Rosenthal said.  "We can help direct people to some of those resources.  Just like someone can be referred to a doctor downtown, we can refer someone to a spiritual organization or providers.  Here at the Chapel, we can provide different types of religious services and retreats to meet different needs.  Some are faith-specific; others are more generic."

Airmen who are feeling down or out of touch with their spirituality can always see someone with the chaplain corps.

"You don't have to wait until things boil over to seek out support from the chaplain corps.  We are here for crisis interventions, of course, but we're also here to equip and support military members to exercise their constitutional right to the free exercise of religion," said Tech. Sgt. Sean Moriarty, 325th FW chaplain assistant. 

For questions or appointments to a chaplain call the 325th FW/HC at 283-2925 or call Corey Coleman for resilience training at 283-8387.