Resilience tactical pause: It's OK not to feel OK

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As you are probably aware, the chief of staff and the chief master sergeant of the Air Force directed all units to institute a tactical pause to address the suicide problem affecting the Total Force.

From a component perspective, we have endured 13 suicides this year, compared to one at this time last year. This is not OK. However, it is OK not to feel OK.

This month, the boss and I kicked off our tactical pause with our “Share Your Story” campaign at Headquarters Air Force Reserve Command.

Here’s my story:

At various stages throughout my life and career, things have not always panned out like I’ve planned. I endured relationship issues, financial stress, military and civilian career disappointments, and the everyday struggles associated with raising a family.

Sometimes I felt like I was going through it alone, and no one could possibly understand what I was going through. As I got older and obtained more rank, I grew more reluctant to talk about problems because I increasingly worried about what others would think.

After I made chief, I really did not want to divulge anything affecting me personally because chiefs are leaders and leaders are supposed to be strong. I used to think seeking help or even admitting you need help was a sign of weakness. Man was I wrong!

Here’s the thing: No matter what you are going through, there are people who have endured the same, only to come out stronger in the end because they gave life a chance. I believe it’s human nature to always want more out of life, and if you’re not careful your mind can trick you into thinking you have failed.

Life showed me long ago that you will never make enough money, live in a big enough house, drive a fancy enough car or maybe get that promotion you think you deserve. In the same lesson, life has taught me to be grateful for the things I’ve often taken for granted, such as family, friends, good health and the opportunity to make a positive impact in the lives of others. Guess what? We all have things we can be grateful for.

During the standup the boss and I gave, I panned across the audience and wondered what others may be going through. I was reminded of a parable which basically says if you threw your problems in the center of the room along with everyone else’s, you’d gladly take yours back once you saw what others had to deal with.

That is to say no matter how bad you may feel at the time, others may have endured worse and you may never even know it.

No matter what you may be going through, you do not have to go it alone. In times of need, chaplains, mental health professionals, first sergeants, Military One Source, commanders, chiefs, and Lt. Gen. Scobee and I are just a few of the resources at your disposal.

Regardless of rank, title or position, sometimes we all need someone in our corner. I’m here to tell you that your leadership is in your corner, regardless of circumstance, to get you the help you need. It’s OK not to feel OK, but admitting you need help is the initial step. Taking that step is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength.

It’s a pleasure serving as your command chief. Please share your story with me at