KADENA AIR BASE, Japan --
The 18th Wing commander kicked off the new year leading all-calls – with COVID-19 mitigation measures in place – to reflect on 2020 and address the way ahead for 2021 at the Rocker Enlisted Club, Jan. 7-13, 2021.
In order to remain in sync and work effectively as one team, these face-to-face conversations are vital, explained U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Joel L. Carey, 18th Wing commander.
“Every one of you have your own version of what 2020 brought to you. It impacted everything, it impacted our mission … our day-to-day lives. We had to reorganize how we do our daily operations, and not just generating air power, but how we handle the influx of guidance,” Carey said. “At the heart of it is ensuring that we are protected, you are protected, and that we are keeping first-things-first and protecting our community.”
Carey shared the stage with experts from the 18th Medical Group and 18th Wing Chaplain Office to talk about the current COVID situation and resiliency.
Col. Kevin Hettinger, the wing’s public health emergency officer, informed all-call members of the upward trend in positive cases on Okinawa and reflected on the situation that has played out over the past year.
For the majority of this past year the messaging about COVID has really been about fear, hesitancy, questions, the unknown and just doing whatever we can to prevent it,” Hettinger recalled. “When you have a pandemic that has fatalities associated with it and there’s no effective treatment and there’s no vaccine… it’s a very daunting message. I’m excited that I can be here and say, ‘I’m going to talk to you about a vaccine that’s effective and can prevent COVID-19.’ That’s an exciting message.”
According to Hettinger, recent studies show negative long-term outcomes of contracting COVID-19 such as fatigue, shortness of breath, and performance and memory difficulties. Conversely, he said there are no known negative long-term outcomes from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. He also talked about the Department of Defense goal of vaccinating 80% of DoD beneficiaries by the 4th of July.
With rapid progression on the vaccine front focusing on physical wellness, it’s important to remember being fit to fight includes a mental aspect of readiness as well.
Lt. Col. Joel Foster, a licensed psychologist and director of operations from the 18th Wing Operational Medical Readiness Squadron, encouraged the crowd to work toward value-based goals, invest in social relationships and accept emotions without judgement as three steps toward resiliency and thriving in 2021. Additionally, Col. Peter N. Fischer, 18th Wing chaplain, further expanded on how quality sleep, regular exercise, a healthy diet, and attending religious services are all habits related to becoming more resilient.
Armed with these tools, 18th Wing members have the knowledge necessary to practice resiliency even through difficult times.
As we look forward in 2021, the mission to deliver decisive air and cyberspace capabilities in support of U.S. interests, the defense of Japan and peace and stability throughout the Indo-Pacific hasn’t changed, Carey explained.
Ensuring Airmen are resilient is at the heart of success for Team Kadena.
“Every single one of you is valued as a person… we need all of you,” Carey told attendees in closing remarks. “Amid all the challenges, I’d offer there’s an opportunity… Take time to have an impact on the people around us. If you want to make an indelible impact, make sure you are carving out time to take care of those around you. That’s one of the greatest opportunities you have right now as history is being written. Never lose sight of that.”