This blog was written by KaLea Lehman, Executive Director, Military Special Operations Family Collaborative (MSOF).
The Military Special Operations Family Collaborative and the Global SOF Foundation teamed up to host the first ever virtual SOF Team Room event on November 9th, 2021. We all know the “team room” is a place for real, candid conversations, and we chose topics that are so important that we invited the family in, too.
The recent events in Afghanistan demanded such a response, but these current events are just the tip of the iceberg. We took on this challenge and are committed to continue the conversation and the deep dive into tough topics that get to the heart of the strength and legacy of special operations.
Historic Times Need a Team Room
This August we saw active and veteran SOF and their families working around the clock to help Afghan commandos and families at risk escape immediate danger. There are groups still working from their kitchen tables and other make-shift operations centers to leave no-one behind. These efforts speak to the commitment of the SOF community, but it truly brings the war home in new ways that directly impact our operators and families.
So we decided to create this virtual forum as an outlet to discuss these issues.
Global SOF’s CSM (Ret) Rick Lamb kicked off our SOF Team Room, highlighting historic moments–like now–where SOF character and leadership were needed on the battlefield (and well beyond it).
Rick set the perimeter for the night around these five pillars: Faith, Family, Fitness, Friends and Finances. “These 5 pillars provide a solid foundation, a firm backstop, and a lifeline. . . . We’ve found that you can lose two of the five and survive; if you lose three or more, you may not long endure!”
Real Talk from the Top
For this SOF Team Room kickoff we brought in top leaders and experts willing to candidly address tough legacy topics that leaders rarely speak personally about– unless they are in a team room. Rick set the tone, but Drs. Chris Frueh and Preston Cline covered key ground ranging from the battlefield to life after service and the many hurdles in between.
Many will recognize Chris as the lead author of the “Operator Syndrome” paper and Preston as the primary author of the “Residue” paper or for his expertise in mission critical units. We brought them in as trusted friends of the SOF community capable of leading real conversation with LTG (Ret) Mike Nagata and CSM (Ret) Bill Thetford.
If you missed out on this team room conversation, you can catch up here or check out these event take-aways on Afghanistan and leading 38-years at the tip of the spear.
- Afghanistan: Experienced a wide range of reactions to the news from Afghanistan ranging from depression to anger. The worst thing you can do with thoughts about Afghanistan is to bottle them up.
- Family: A significant portion of my ability to do my job was highly reliant on knowing my family was safe at home. Family impacted mission performance no matter how much they tried to separate family from the mission.
- Health & Performance: Just taking care of the servicemember is a one dimensional way to look at things. Service takes a toll and just because you aren’t sick does not mean you are healthy and well.
A Little Mid-Event PT
After part 1 of the panel conversation, we took a short pause for some practical and interactive wellness sprints. Each of the six sprints took on questions we see asked regularly, and was led by SOF veterans and experts. They got in the mud, answered tough questions, and offered SOF resources at the ready.
Here’s our team’s recap of the sprints:
- Sprint 1: Tom Spooner of Warrior’s Heart led the Connection Sprint covering substance abuse and the training needed to get back in the fight.
- Sprint 2: Patrick Smith and Jacque Francona led the SOF Health Sprint discussing the visible and invisible tolls of SOF service and how Home Base’s programs help SOF get to the root of their problem and find effective care.
- Sprint 3: Herb Thompson, author of “The Transition Mission” and Andy McIndoe of Warrior Angels Foundation maneuvered through how to find the purpose of service following Afghanistan.
- Sprint 4: Tom and Jen Satterly of the All Secure Foundation led the Connection Sprint tackling the challenges of post traumatic stress and the importance of connecting with family and forming strong relationships.
- Sprint 5: Dr. Jen Byrne of 5by5 Performance Therapy led the next SOF health sprint covering stress and sleep. Dr. Byrne covered how stress has a unique bell curve in SOF, the effects it has on the brain, and some practical strategies to improve your wellness.
- Sprint 6: Herb Thompson and Ty Bathurst of the SEAL Future Foundation discussed military transition gaps and how to close them.
We are so thankful that so many members of the community were willing to come together to have these conversations.
Culminating Conversation – SOF Legacy
Following the wellness sprints, LTG (Ret) Nagata, CSM (Ret) Thetford, Dr. Frueh, and Dr. Cline returned to the team room for a final conversation on SOF Legacy. The first conversation left us thinking, but LTG (Ret) Mike Nagata and CSM (Ret) Thetford held nothing back in this SOF legacy discussion.
You can catch-up on the conversation on video here, or check out our brief recap on the key ground covered and some points to ponder below:
- Meaning of SOF Service: There was always meaning. What compelled them to the mission evolved over a career several times from doing hard tasks, to finding meaning in family, to serving our nation. The meaning of service evolves. You have to know what it is for you.
- Transition: Plan early as a family. Think about your parameters for life after the military: Location, a Rewarding Job, & Necessary Pay. Consider the really hard question, what job will bring you joy? Nothing will ever be the same as being in the team room, being on the objective after taking it, but you can find something that brings you joy. You just have to figure out what that is.
- Legacy Challenge: SOF will remain busy. It is not going to slow down. We have to get better at dealing with the fact that SOF is so freaking busy.
Finally, KaLea Lehman, Executive Director of the Military Special Operations Family Collaborative, capped off the night recognizing sponsors, thanking families for being bold enough to step into the team room, and requesting input for the next SOF Team Room.
The Next SOF Team Room
So when’s the next conversation?
Our eye is on early Spring 2022. To lock it in, tell us what you thought of this team room. How can we do better? What topic do you want to see us tackle? There are a few ways you can tell us who you want to hear from and what we need to cover.
- If you are SOF active duty or veteran, take the SOF for Life Medical Survey. It takes 6-8 minutes of your time. The Global SOF foundation will use it to shape their work and many partners that provide critical resources to SOF are waiting on your input. Share it with your command, share it with your buddies, care for your teammates by taking the survey.
- If you are a SOF spouse, take the SOF Family Wellness Survey. We know there aren’t many resources for SOF families. Few people get the unique wear that follows a SOF career. We get it. Take the survey, share your thoughts, and we will make sure you have a spot in the team room.
- Two extra ways to shape the conversation: fill out this simple event survey or send us an email to continue the conversation.
Real talk doesn’t come cheap. We couldn’t have done it without our partners. A special thanks to:
- LTG (Ret) Mike Nagata and CSM (Ret) Bill Thetford for joining the primary panel discussions
- Drs. Preston Cline and Chris Frueh for moderating the primary panel discussions
- Our amazing Master of Ceremonies, SOC (SEAL, Ret.) Dan Luna
- Our Content partners: All Secure Foundation, Warrior’s Heart, Home Base, Warrior Angels Foundation, SEAL Future Foundation, 5by5 Performance Therapy, and author Herb Thompson.
- Charlie Daniels Journey Home Project for being a SOF Advocate Sponsor
- Worldwide Risk Management for being a SOF Support Sponsor
- Mr. Bill Pinamont’s kind support of our event.
See you ALL next time!
SOF Advocate Sponsor:
|SOF Support Sponsor:
Worldwide Risk Management
|SOF Team Sponsor:
Mr. Bill Pinamont
|Thank you for your Support!|