We hope you have enjoyed Armed Forces Week and hearing from our different participants, three Iraq or Afghanistan Veterans and one Army Spouse, as well as the great news from your Department of Interior. We hope to see you on the trail soon.
Today's guest blogger:
David Coyle, Tech Sergeant, USAF, Hurlburt Field, FL
The day started out like most others; my alarm clock woke me up at 0515, I hit the snooze, rolled over and tried to grab an extra five minutes. I knew it was going to be a rough day and I better grab every bit of sleep I can. The major difference between today and most others is that today I was not heading off to work to lead my team of Air Force aircraft maintenance technicians. Today I was part of a different team; one comprised of seven prior service members, representing all branches of the US military, and one military spouse. That, and I was about 15 miles deep in the Gila Wilderness, part of a six-day expedition designed to get veterans outdoors and teach them leadership traits they can take away to be more successful in their personal lives.
I had no idea how much I would learn or how much fun I would have. Backpacking and hiking in the outdoors were new concepts for me, but I was up for the challenge. The trip turned out to be one of the greatest leadership experiences of my life. My time outdoors taught me many things from how to walk uphill correctly to what works best as natural toilet paper (surprisingly it was rocks); however, the most important thing I took home from this expedition was learning how to overcome adversity and uncertainty while connecting it with resiliency.
Everyone will undoubtedly face adversity and uncertainty at some point in their life. Some will experience it more than others, especially those serving (or who have served) in the military. The seemingly impossible situations presented to those serving in uniform makes dealing with adversity and uncertainty so important. Being able to bounce back after problems arise whether related to work, or one’s personal life, constitutes resiliency. Since problems do not go away by themselves, and constantly being told to “do more with less” only increases adversity and uncertainty, resiliency becomes a character trait required for each and every service member both active and prior service.
During my expedition in the Gila, I realized how important this concept of resiliency was, not only for me, but for my team as well. After hiking for three days straight while carrying a 45 lb. pack for the first time in my life, I was a little worn out. I think the fun I was having helped me forget about the soreness, but it was nevertheless there. Imagine my surprise when our leaders for the day informed us that we were going to hike 14 miles (three of which were off the map) carrying extra water and would need to summit two mountains. Adversity was staring us in the face, but I am always up for a good challenge. As the day wore on, the sun beat down, and we conserved our water as we hiked. We crested our first mountain and began the trek down into the saddle off the map. I wouldn’t say we were lost, but no one could be sure of our exact location.
Tired and unsure, we trudged forward; bring on the uncertainty. Just when we thought we had about enough, our instructor tripped over a downed tree and had a seizure. Everyone’s training kicked in. We secured the scene, stabilized our patient, documented the situation, set up a tent, and were preparing to send runners for help, when she popped up and said “great job guys.” It was a test! We were angry, but knew it was for our own good. At this point, we all wanted to call it a day and camp right there, but the rest of our team was ahead of us and waiting for our arrival to cook dinner and set up camp. So we did what any group of military guys would do, we pulled up our bootstraps and trudged ahead a few more miles, up a mountain, then down to the camp.
When we arrived at camp, we expected water waiting there for us, but the spring was dry. Even so, it was the perfect end to a rough day. As we woke the next morning, and continued on, I felt a sense of accomplishment. We all, as a team, defeated adversity and uncertainty through our resiliency. Making this connection will forever cement the concept of resiliency as a virtue in my life.
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