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Wingman Day emphasizes resiliency

120th Airlift Wing Commander Col. Lee Smith speaks to nearly 500 Airmen in attendance at the unit’s annual Wingman Day, December 3, 2016 at the Mansfield Center in Great Falls, Mont. Smith’s message encouraged Airmen to step outside their comfort zones. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Master Sgt. Michael Touchette)

120th Airlift Wing Commander Col. Lee Smith speaks to nearly 500 Airmen in attendance at the unit’s annual Wingman Day, December 3, 2016 at the Mansfield Center in Great Falls, Mont. Smith’s message encouraged Airmen to step outside their comfort zones. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Master Sgt. Michael Touchette)

120th Airlift Wing Commander Col. Lee Smith presents Capt. Diane Labuda with a rock and certificate recognizing her as the unit’s rock, paper and scissors champion. Nearly 500 Guardsmen participated in the game during an audience participation exercise during the unit’s 2016 Wingman Day event December 3, 2016. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Master Sgt. Michael Touchette)

120th Airlift Wing Commander Col. Lee Smith presents Capt. Diane Labuda with a rock and certificate recognizing her as the unit’s rock, paper and scissors champion. Nearly 500 Guardsmen participated in the game during an audience participation exercise during the unit’s 2016 Wingman Day event December 3, 2016. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Master Sgt. Michael Touchette)

Tech. Sgt. Amanda McKnight, a 120th Security Forces Squadron security forces specialist, juggles oranges during a crowd participation exercise during the 120th Airlift Wing’s 2016 Wingman Day event December 3, 2016 at the Mansfield Center in Great Falls, Montana. The crowd participation exercise required individuals to share with their groups some unique fact about themselves. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Master Sgt. Michael Touchette)

Tech. Sgt. Amanda McKnight, a 120th Security Forces Squadron security forces specialist, juggles oranges during a crowd participation exercise during the 120th Airlift Wing’s 2016 Wingman Day event December 3, 2016 at the Mansfield Center in Great Falls, Montana. The crowd participation exercise required individuals to share with their groups some unique fact about themselves. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Master Sgt. Michael Touchette)

Ottis West, lead resiliency instructor for Techwerks, LLC, speaks to Airmen from the 120th Airlift Wing at the unit’s annual Wingman Day, December 3, 2016 at the Mansfield Center in Great Falls, Mont. West’s humorous anecdotes and personal stories entertained Airmen while educating them on resiliency. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Master Sgt. Michael Touchette)

Ottis West, lead resiliency instructor for Techwerks, LLC, speaks to Airmen from the 120th Airlift Wing at the unit’s annual Wingman Day, December 3, 2016 at the Mansfield Center in Great Falls, Mont. West’s humorous anecdotes and personal stories entertained Airmen while educating them on resiliency. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Master Sgt. Michael Touchette)

Chief Master Sgt. Pat Halko lends a hand to Guardsmen during a skit performed during the 120th Airlift Wing’s Wingman Day event December 3, 2016 at the Mansfield Center in Great Falls, Montana. The skit demonstrated the appropriate utilization of Guardsmen.  (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Master Sgt. Michael Touchette)

Chief Master Sgt. Pat Halko lends a hand to Guardsmen during a skit performed during the 120th Airlift Wing’s Wingman Day event December 3, 2016 at the Mansfield Center in Great Falls, Montana. The skit demonstrated the appropriate utilization of Guardsmen. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Master Sgt. Michael Touchette)

GREAT FALLS, Mont. -- Nearly 500 Airmen from the 120th Airlift Wing gathered Saturday of the December drill for the unit's annual Wingman Day event at the Mansfield Center here.

Following a Year in Review video highlighting the events the wing has participated in during 2016, 120th AW Commander Col. Lee Smith opened the event challenging Airmen to get outside of their comfort zone.

"Comfort zones are nice, but nothing ever grows there," said Smith. "It takes courage to step outside your comfort zone."

Smith said trying new things and taking risks develops resilience and only by stepping outside our comfort zones can we challenge ourselves and others to make changes.

"In time culture shifts, society changes, you all will change," said Smith. "If the organization doesn't keep up, then it runs the risk of no longer being relevant."

Smith said that organizations don't venture out of their comfort zones, it is individuals within organizations that do.

"The world is changing around us and, like it or not, it's not going to wait for us to keep up with it," said Smith.

Following Smith's comments, guest speaker Ottis West, an internationally renowned instructor on resilience, took the stage to speak to the Airmen.

West started his presentation speaking of the four pillars of resiliency; emotional, physical, social and spiritual, and how they all contribute to comprehensive Airman fitness.

West's key concepts were having an attitude of gratitude and building optimism with reality.

"One of the things I believe is very powerful is cultivating gratitude," said West. "When we talk about being grateful for things I think you really need to be deliberate in the process."

West said that people tend to fall into a negativity bias: a tendency to focus on the negative, instead of the positive.

"The biggest thing is understanding that our thoughts drive our emotions and our reactions and we have a choice on which thought we are going to act on," said West. "When you realize that there is a measure of choice in there, then you are going to be more productive, improve your performance, live out your values, improve your relationships."

West said that controlling and choosing your thoughts takes practice and preparation.

"We need to hold our thoughts captive," said West. "Why? Because our thoughts drive our emotional and physical reactions."

"We can prepare for adversity and challenges, it's not that difficult," said West. "We have to practice the things that will put us in a more positive state of mind, that will allow us to be more creative, that will allow us to have that growth mindset and will allow us to have that perseverance to continue to push through when everyone else is saying 'we should probably just give up'."

West said that being a victim or being victorious is a choice that we make.

West said that one of the things Airmen can do to prepare for adversity is to identify unproductive patterns of thought and change them.

"I love tacos, but if I know if I have to work on PT maybe I could have just one," said West. "And you know the easiest way to have just one taco? Order one taco. You're not going to order three and be like, yeah, I'm only going to eat one. That's a lie and you've already set yourself up for failure."

West said that everyone, at some point in their lives, will face adversity.

"I want you to understand that it's not going to be easy," said West. "Life is tough. It is tough and you have to prepare for it like it's tough. Life is probably one of the toughest enemies you'll come across."

West said how we get through difficult times is directly dependent on how we prepare for it.

"Do you need more faith in your life? Do you need to be more physically fit? Because one of the things we know about physical fitness is the more physically fit you are, the more mentally fit you are. There is a direct connection between physical fitness and mental fitness," said West.

West said that research shows mental fitness and emotional strength can be practiced and improved, but that doesn't mean you're not going to have any problems. You'll just be better prepared to deal with them.

West said one of the best ways to get through adversity is to focus on helping others to get through it.

"I say that from a deep personal experience through some combat situations where what allowed me to get through it the way I did was I wasn't focused on me," said West. "I would encourage you that if you are going through something and someone is going through it with you focus on how you can assist them in the process."

West's presentation was punctuated by interactive exercises which the crowd participated in and skits led by Master Sgt. Josh Brown from the recruiting office. The skits emphasized the frustrations and challenges faced by Guardsmen.

Smith closed the event by explaining why we do Wingman Day.

"I personally feel that taking the time to focus on 'us' and help 'us' as individuals is the most important thing," said Smith. "I'm perfectly willing to spend a guard drill not doing DTS, not doing AROWS, not fixing planes, not flying planes, but just focusing on us."
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