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Expanding your social circle

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- The Air Force's Comprehensive Airman Fitness program aims to develop resiliency through an all-encompassing approach to fitness. It focuses on building four pillars of mental, physical, social and spiritual strength in each Airman as the cornerstones of this fortitude.

One such pillar, social fitness, teaches the ability to engage in healthy social networks that promote overall well-being and optimal performance and some Ellsworth Airmen have learned that these networks can appear in a variety of ways. For them, strengthening their social pillar means volunteering in the community.

Lt. Col. Jaime Hernandez, 28th Bomb Wing chief of safety, volunteers at his local church on a regular basis and explained that one of his favorite things is meeting people outside the military and extending his social circle.

"Volunteering really gives me a chance to meet people not affiliated with the base," Hernandez said. "While base activities can help you meet other military members, I believe it is important to be a part of the local community as well."

Tech. Sgt. Sheldon Milligan, 28th Bomb Wing chaplain assistant, explained that volunteering at his local church is an extension of what he does as a chaplain assistant.

"Serving is one reason why I retrained into this career field," Milligan said. "By volunteering at my local church church, I get involved with several outreach programs in the community that I may not have the opportunity to do on base."

Milligan explained that the social pillar really revolves around the relationships you have not only in the military, but throughout the community.

"The social pillar is not about being where you are comfortable," Milligan said. "It's about having relationships with people everywhere. To truly develop on the social pillar requires Airmen to be integrated through different organizations in the area."

Milligan noted that while it isn't necessary to get out of your comfort zone to expand on the social pillar, he feels it is beneficial to experience the city in order to truly enhance the pillar.

"I believe you see the most benefit when you're giving your own time," Milligan said. "Not because the military allows you to do it, but because you choose to do it on your own. I feel like the social pillar is rooted in giving your time to someone else who can benefit from it."

Hernandez added that it is important to him to extend practicing the social pillar outside of work, and that having those different perspectives helps build balance and resilience.

"This gets me socializing with people I otherwise wouldn't," Hernandez said. "While it helps build the social pillar, it also gets me involved with the community and helps build credibility for the military. It shows that military members are dedicated to being part of the community, even though they may only be there for two or three years."

Hernandez volunteers several times a week. On top of serving at church, he also helps coach little league baseball.

"The whole principle of CAF is for resilience when things get tough," Hernandez said.  "Having that social aspect, the people you work with, volunteer or socialize with... having that support system is very important and helpful to becoming a resilient Airman."