By Col. James Hodges
6th Mission Support Group commander
MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. – I was speaking to a group of company grade officers recently and one of them asked, “How do you balance it all?”
He knew that I had a very busy job with a lot of demands on my time. He also knew that I had a family and, quite possibly, some personal interests as well. How do I balance it all? The answer is that I have to be deliberate to make sure I fit it all in.
The best way of framing how to be deliberate, balance the demands of life and have fun while in the Air Force is the concept of Comprehensive Airman Fitness.
Comprehensive Airman Fitness encompasses all aspects of life and is described by its four pillars: mental, physical, social and spiritual. Ensuring I take care of the various aspects of life helps me keep it all in balance.
I am a civil engineer, so construction and architecture appeal to me. I like the imagery of a classic and beautiful Greek architectural structure being supported by four pillars. The pillars supporting the structure must be strong and balanced. If one pillar is not balanced or not strong enough, then the structure suffers. The other pillars have to carry the extra load.
However, the ingenuity of having multiple pillars is that they spread the load of the building across the columns and, when they are used together, are much stronger as a whole than they are individually.
Another engineering benefit of having multiple pillars is that if one is weakened, the others can help carry the extra load until the weak pillar can be repaired and re-strengthened.
The four pillars of one’s own Comprehensive Airman Fitness are analogous to the Greek structure, in that when strong and in balance they can carry incredible loads. Even when some areas are suffering, the others can help carry the burden until the weak areas are strengthened.
When explaining to the company grade officers how I apply this in my life, I used my typical weekly life rhythm to illustrate. Sundays are critical for my life balance and serve as my best example of integrating all the pillars of Comprehensive Airman Fitness. I typically start my week on Sunday with a restful sleep-in to refresh my physical pillar and charge up for the coming week.
I have moments of quietness and relaxation by sitting on the front porch with a cup of coffee while enjoying the beautiful nature of Florida. Those activities help take some stress off of my mental pillar.
I also take a walk with my wife and dog along the bay to invigorate each of the pillars. I attend church with my family and see friends there to strengthen my spiritual and social pillars.
I usually work out or do physical activities with my kids, and that address all of the pillars as well. You can see that Sundays are critical for me and in my typical life rhythm they ensure I keep all of my life’s pillars strong so that I can withstand whatever challenges the events of the coming week throw at me.
When sprinting through the workweek, I also strive to stay in balance. I make time for fitness to start off my day before work, at least three times a week. Whether I run along Bayshore Boulevard, workout in my home gym or PT with hundreds of my favorite 6th Maintenance Group Airmen, starting my day with a fitness activity strengthens my physical pillar as well as relieving stress to invigorate my mental pillar. When I PT with my 6th MSG Airmen, it also strengthens my social pillar and lifts my spirits.
I work hard during the day and try to make each minute count. My work always stimulates my intellect and, like working out, makes me more fit. A good day full of challenges strengthens my mental pillar.
I gain a lot of strength for my social pillar by working to accomplish our missions alongside our great Airmen, civilian and contractor teammates. However, when I get home, I’m tired. Spending some time with my family, helping with homework, taking the dog for a walk along the bay and making sure I get a good night of sleep all recharge me across the board.
Finally, Saturday is a welcome day to end the week to rest, recuperate, spend time with friends and family, enjoy personal interests and serve the community in other ways.
At the end of this typical week, I find I’ve addressed all aspects of Comprehensive Airman Fitness, taken care of myself and my family and reinvigorated my “house” by making sure all the pillars are balanced and strong.