Comprehensive Airman Fitness

  • Published
  • By Maj. Saida Hage
  • 49th Comptroller Squadron
Comprehensive Airman Fitness is not just a military buzzword, but a way of life. In fact, it's so important that the Air Force dedicates entire days, thousands of man-hours, to focus on the four pillars of CAF. Last week we dedicated an entire day to focus on the physical fitness pillar.

The four pillars of CAF are: mental, physical, social and spiritual well-being. Each is unique, however all are interrelated, and we must synergize all to improve our well-being, enhance our work and home, and strengthen personal readiness. In order for us to have balanced lives, our pillars must be in balance. So what does each pillar mean?

The Mental Pillar focuses on our thought processes and how we respond to events that occur in our lives. Be aware of how particular triggers cause you to react. Are your reactions appropriate? If not, you should arm yourself with the proper coping mechanisms. Despite what people say, I believe you can "teach an old dog new tricks." It's just going to take commitment from you to want to change and want to improve.

This pillar is the foundation of resiliency. It is what helps us rationalize what is happening and apply the correct reactions. The mental pillar is evident when we are fighting the inner demons of past combat experiences, coping with unit peacetime fatalities or dealing with day-to-day life stresses. A certain smell or a sonic boom may bring us to tears or make our hearts race from past memories.

The mental pillar helps draw us back to the present, but we must have a mental compass that steers us back to reality and the tasks at hand. This pillar establishes the realization that reactions are not simply fight-or-flight, but are also a vast spectrum of responses in-between. The coping mechanism you choose to use will affect your mental well-being.

The Spiritual Pillar is not necessarily religion-based. This is having a sense of purpose or meaning, hope and faith, even when things don't turn out the way you planned. The spiritual pillar is different things to different people. It is simply recognition of a higher power, whether divine or man-made.

The Social Pillar encompasses the relationships you have with family, friends, peers and co-workers. It's a sense of belonging. The social pillar is supported by being involved in social activities such as church fellowships, sports activities, reading groups or community bonding events.

The Physical Pillar is not just physical fitness, but it also focuses on having a healthy, well-balanced diet, proper rest, and both anaerobic and aerobic exercise. Properly incorporating all physical elements will produce positive results. Just recall the endorphin rush after a long run and you can quickly grasp how one pillar (physical) can effect another (mental).

Now you know what each of the pillars means and the criticality of balancing them. It's this synergy of the pillars that creates the bedrock of healthy living and proper mission readiness. I'd also ask you to be a good Wingman and ensure those in your social circles are informed and emulate these characteristics. And while we've codified these pillars on paper, we each need to uniquely define them in our daily lives.

Most people tap into each of the pillars on a daily basis but just never realize it. You may find that you need to tweak some of the areas. You may also find that you practice some but not all. I believe that if you can find a good balance between all four pillars, you will live a happy fulfilling life. I'm not saying that if you practice all aspects of CAF you won't have adversity in your life...Mr. Murphy and his law will find us wherever we are. What I am saying is that practicing all four pillars will help us more effectively deal with the adversity we all face on a daily basis.

The wing provides CAF days to inform and arm us with the tools needed to withstand the rigors of life. An old adage states "knowledge is power", but a great officer once told me that "applied knowledge is power". We must take the assets the Air Force provides us from CAF events and apply them to our daily operations and lives.

Our service is based on the expectation that contingencies will happen. We need to be prepared for these contingencies, not just with high-tech weaponry, but with a trained and comprehensively fit force. So, let's take advantage of the "focus time" we've been given, garner as much as we can from these CAF days and apply the lessons learned both in our day-to-day lives and across the Air Force.