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Air Commando Concepts (part one): Unnecessary Risk Taking

  • Published
  • By Col. London Richard
  • Air Force Special Operations Command Surgeon General's Office
Being an Air Force Special Operations Command Air Commando requires mature preparation and a focus on technical expertise, wise actions, personal development and leadership. An Air Commando consciously considers pros/cons and consequences of various courses of action and plans accordingly.

There are several elements which impair a person's ability to make smart decisions. None of the following are bad or dangerous by themselves. It is their use by the inexperienced, impulsive and/or immature individual that ultimately produces or worsens dangerous situations.

Alcohol is a Central Nervous System depressant and sedative substance used to reduce perceived tension/stress in the mind and body. After regular use of alcohol over time, the consumption itself can become a habit, and the sedated state becomes something the drinker routinely relies on to reduce tension or cope.

People who have poorly developed stress reduction skills tend to over-rely on alcohol (or other substances like nicotine, food, energy drinks, etc). They need a release from tension, as we all do, but their underdeveloped life management skills result in a limited spectrum of things they have learned to provide relief.

Adrenaline is an activating hormone produced by the human body that results in a sense of excitement or agitation. When we engage in high-risk behaviors or physically/mentally demanding activities, then adrenaline rises.

This psycho-physiological state helps push other concerns out of focus and provides a brief situational relief from the worries of everyday life. That is why after activities like weight lifting, running, motorcycle riding or boating, we may experience a more relaxed state, both physically and mentally.

However, if we haven't learned to achieve balance with a VARIETY of healthy stress management strategies, we can over-rely on adrenaline-producing activities.

The term "adrenaline junkie" is used to describe the person whose stress management skills are poorly developed or unbalanced - and who is overly dependent on the "rush" or temporary release from stress or unwanted emotions these activities provide.

As with any drug use, increasingly more dangerous activities over time may be required to produce the same desired state or effect.

Mature, high-performance individuals know that neither alcohol nor adrenaline are dangerous by themselves. They only become dangerous when used excessively or inappropriately by inexperienced people who lack self-control and/or possess under-developed stress management skills.

Additionally, the combination of adrenaline and alcohol use by immature or impulsive individuals increases the likelihood of possible catastrophic outcomes. By contrast, successful high-performing professionals maintain awareness and use a broad range of activities which enhance their resilience, stability, performance and relationships. They generally:

· Focus on developing leadership/management abilities, so they can pursue a future where they are the senior influencers of the system in which they live
· Have faith interests and regular spiritual activities that guide their personal values and allow a broad, mature perspective on the worries of everyday life
· Learn to talk openly about their goals and stresses with those they trust and respect. Talking allows them to think through things that concern them and explore the best options to handle life's pressures and challenges.
· Recognize early signs that stress is beginning to have a negative effect on performance and proactively take action to reduce the stress and recover their previous high performance level