Herk Nation gets connected

  • Published
  • By Amn Julian Atkins
  • 19 Airlift Wing Public Affairs

This New Year, instead of the typical fitness or diet challenge, Herk Nation kicked-off 2023 with a Connection Challenge spanning from Jan. 17 through Feb. 10.

Connectedness within your work center can instill confidence in one another and create a positive and productive work environment. Some may find that fostering connectedness can be a struggle. A struggle to connect is a struggle to bond and Herk Nation’s New Year Connection Challenge provided a perfect opportunity for all Airmen to do just that.

Lasting over four weeks, the challenge was intended to bring Airmen closer together.

The first week of the Connection Challenge was championed by the First Sergeants, who spent time at the Base Exchange performing random acts of kindness and spreading word about the challenge. From helping Airmen out with groceries to opening doors and starting conversations, the First Sergeant team connected with Team Little Rock Airmen--showing even the smallest acts of kindness can turn someone’s day around, boost morale and build trust and confidence within the force.

“Connectedness means to me, to have a sense of belonging and a family outside of your home structure somewhere you feel appreciated and valued at all times,” said Master Sgt. David Simmons, 19th Operations Support Squadron First Sergeant.

Week two introduced a more direct, and to some, an intimidating challenge. Championed by Senior Enlisted Leaders, the “5 by 5” challenge encouraged Airmen to hold a meaningful conversation for at least five minutes with five unfamiliar people throughout the week.

“The 5 by 5 challenge was designed to have you go around and introduce yourself to five people, and have a connection for five minutes,” said Chief Master Sgt. Heather Stanfield, 19th Mission Support Group senior enlisted leader.

Airman First Class Jeremy Rosario, a journeyman with the 19th Logistics Readiness Squadron, loved the 5 by 5 challenge.

“It was definitely intimidating to go up to random people and have a conversation, but it gave me the chance to get to know people on a deeper level and actually try to meet the person,” Rosario said.

The 5 by 5 challenge gave Airmen and leaders an opportunity to stretch beyond their normal habits of communication. Although the challenge may have seemed uncomfortable, it ultimately allowed Airmen to connect on a deeper level, diving below the surface of their usual conversation habits.

“The challenge enabled me to get their true personality rather than what they may just be portraying,” Rosario continued.

The third week, championed by commanders, introduced the “Who’s your person?” challenge. This challenge encouraged Airmen to look inward at their own support system and identify people that they can rely on when things get tough.

“There are two types of big ‘A’ Airmen in our Air Force, those who have gone through difficult times, and those who will go through difficult times,” said Lt. Col. Shane Slade, the 19th Medical Group deputy commander.

Slade points out that all Airmen go through hard times, and it is imperative that we deliberately think about and name the few people we would call in a time of crisis. Without a solid support system, service members have an even more challenging experience navigating what could be a difficult time.

The Connection Challenge finished with a week dedicated to the Warrior Heart and welcomed Retired Chief Master Sergeant Anthony Brinkley to speak on how to forge the Warrior Heart and harness grit. The Warrior Heart can be broken down into three main components, mind, body, and craft.

“When we’re talking about the mind, we mean the ability to understand when you’re not healthy and having the courage to step up and ask for help, and when it comes to your body it’s physical fitness,” said Chief Master Sergeant Nicholas Tonino, 19th Airlift Wing Command Chief.

According to Tonino, the Warrior Heart requires Airmen to maintain a healthy and lethal body.

“When we’re talking about your craft, it’s everything you’ve been learning since day one as an Airman, to perfect your craft and be as lethal as possible and all of this culminates in grit, which is the ability to do the hard things better,” Tonino said.

Finally, the Connection Challenged ended with Wingman Day and the Herk Hangouts Club Fair, which provided many opportunities for Airmen and families to come together and foster courageous leaders, resilient warriors and strong families. The Herk Hangout Club Fair also provided multiple avenues for participating in hobbies, sports and meeting people with similar interests.

The four-week challenge has been seen as a success across the installation allowing Airmen like Airman 1st Class Rosario and others to step out of their comfort zone and connect.

According to Chief Tonino, although the Connection Challenge is over, the challenge to connect never ends.