Strengthening our spiritual resilience

  • Published
  • By Chaplain, Col. Julian Gaither
  • U.S. Air Force Academy Command Chaplain

Fitness. When the average citizen thinks of being fit, it is easy for cardio and strength training to come to mind. That is not the case for those serving in the Air Force and Space Force. Comprehensive Airman Fitness teaches that to have “overarching fitness and resilience,” one must work on his or her physical well-being and mental, social, and spiritual fortitude.

Air Force Instruction 90-5001, Integrated Resilience, defines Spiritual Fitness as “the ability to adhere to beliefs, principles, or values needed to persevere and prevail in accomplishing missions.” For those seeking support in developing their spiritual well-being, one needs to look no further than the Chaplain Corps. U.S. Air Force Academy Chaplains have declared August as “Spiritual Fitness Month to provide a spiritual boost for the new Academic Year.”

Spiritual Fitness Month is filled with activities led by the Cadet and Community Chapels to provide participants opportunities to increase their spiritual resiliency. On the hill, the Cadet Chapel hosts three major events. The first, Wow Weekend, is Saturday, August 20, a huge block party on the Terrazzo for cadets, faculty, staff, and families. Planning includes a DJ, food trucks, and obstacle courses. The day also includes a life-size human foosball tournament and knowledge bowl.

On Monday, August 29, the Faculty Forum features Dr. Harold Koenig, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Associate Professor of Medicine from the Duke University School of Medicine. With more than 600 peer-reviewed academic publications, 100 book chapters, and 55 books, Dr. Koenig is internationally recognized as an expert on the impact of faith on health and well-being. He has worked extensively with the U.S. Armed Forces, including special operations, and with the Air Force Chaplain Corps, where he helped develop FaithWorks and Airmen Spiritual Compass. Both initiatives recognize and support faith’s role in Airmen’s well-being. Dr. Koenig will share his research and take questions from the audience.

The Clergy and Faith Leader’s Day is the third major event during Spiritual Fitness Month on Tuesday, August 30. Clergypersons representing a wide range of faith traditions from the Colorado Springs area will tour USAFA and meet our Chapel staff. Local clergy will have the chance to listen to Dr. Koenig’s present “The Role of Faith in Mental, Social, Behavioral, and Physical Health: How to Support U.S. Airmen and Guardians in the Community.” This event is intended to help local clergy interact with and minister to our diverse body of students, faculty, and staff who often attend faith services in the community.

In addition to these events, the Cadet Chapel will lead “Doolie Retreats” for each faith group on campus. Focused on the Class of 2026, the retreats’ aim is renewal and rejuvenation through relevant messages, meaningful worship, and joy-filled fellowship.

Supporting all of these efforts, the Cadet Chapel team created and placed five videos on the Academy YouTube Channel showcasing the unique ways the Jewish, Catholic, Muslim, Orthodox, and Protestant Christian faith traditions encourage and facilitate spiritual fitness. In these two-minute videos, Academy Chaplains share how their faith traditions offer meaningful ways to increase resiliency for individuals and communities.

The goal of Spiritual Fitness Month is to provide so many different offerings that everyone will find an activity that is beneficial. According to Dr. Koenig, “religious involvement can serve as a resource that enhances individuals’ mental health and well-being and can prevent the development of mental disorders or speed their resolution.” While there are numerous ways to increase one’s spiritual resiliency, Academy Chaplains are here to assist. We are excited that the activities offered during Spiritual Fitness Month will be enjoyable and lift spirits to new levels!