Family Forum / By Judy Konitzer: Our Night Stalker Creed says that “Service in the 160th is a calling only a few will answer, for the mission is constantly demanding and hard. And when the impossible has been accomplished the only reward is another mission that no one else will try.”
We invest heavily in our Night Stalkers to ensure that they have the training, equipment, resources, and support that they need. We believe that investing in our Night Stalker families is a critical component of ensuring that our families remain resilient as they enable our Night Stalkers to accomplish the most difficult missions.
The COVID-19 Pandemic has challenged the traditional support structures that we had for our families. In-person Family Member Orientation events were replaced by virtual meetings. We stopped holding in-person Graduation Ceremonies from our training courses and we stopped most social gatherings like unit Hail and Farewells. Though necessary to protect ourselves from COVID-19, these efforts reduced opportunities to bond, develop friendships, and enhance resilience for our families.
Our answer to this challenge is G.R.I.T. (Gaining Resilience Individually and Together). G.R.I.T. is a series of workshops, led by subject matter experts, that teach Night Stalker spouses the mental, spiritual, and physical skills necessary to thrive, not just as military spouses, but as moms and dads, friends, or co-workers. The intent is to encourage connection and empower our families to grow and flourish as a community. G.R.I.T. uses the workshop model as a vehicle to deliver valuable resources to our spouses. We host the workshops monthly in a combined in-person and virtual venue originating from the Regiment Headquarters at Fort Campbell, KY. We hold each G.R.I.T. workshop at the same time on the last Tuesday of every month. We believe this battle rhythm approach helps with attendance and planning purposes for our busy spouses. We are currently focusing on mental, spiritual, physical resilience for adults and building resilience in children.
We have three overarching goals for G.R.I.T. The first goal is to create connections between people. Next, we seek to offer opportunities to be a part of something bigger than oneself. Finally, we hope to enhance a sense of purpose through volunteer and leadership opportunities.
One of the primary challenges of the COVID-19 Pandemic has been the inability to make and sustain connections among people. This challenge is especially impactful for natural extroverts and can have an acute effect on military families during times of transition. We believe that spouses who are new to the Special Operations community benefit greatly from being connected to other spouses in the community. These connections are the pathway to resilience and the foundation of a strong family support system across the unit.
One of the most often cited benefits of military service is the sense of being part of a cause that extends beyond oneself. The Special Operations community has many mechanisms that enhance those feelings including assessment and selection, operations of strategic consequence, and the necessary veil of Operational Security (OPSEC) that we operate under. These mechanisms galvanize teams and ensure that unit members feel part of something bigger than themselves.
We seek to create opportunities to replicate that sense of belonging to something bigger than oneself for our spouses and families. Some of the G.R.I.T. workshops will focus on understanding what the unit members of the 160th SOAR do and the integral part that resilient families play in the unit’s success. By taking a thoughtful approach to demonstrating the tangible effect that our families have on our unit member’s success, we intend to give them a foundation of inclusion that will pay tremendous benefits.
Finally, we believe that by highlighting volunteer opportunities for our family members, we will enable them to enhance their resilience while helping others. Providing leadership opportunities and a space to impact other spouses in a positive way will add to their sense of purpose. We want our spouses to expect that their time in the Regiment family will be meaningful. They will have the right tools and skills and a community that supports them and honors their vital role within the organization. If we grow individually and support each other, then we will thrive as a Night Stalker family.
Mrs. Shannon Graham and COL Andy Graham are the spouse and commander of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) headquartered at Ft. Campbell, KY;