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Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic

ACCLOGWING Chaplain Introduces Mindfulness Training

by Jennifer Cragg
19 January 2024 It’s the start of the New Year where people are triggered to think, plan, and act toward accomplishing goals to better themselves. For one Norfolk-based Navy chaplain, one of his New Year’s resolutions is to continue offering a short, but regular dosage of mindfulness training to benefit and support mental, physical and spiritual health of his Sailors.  
Lt. Cmdr. Scot Sroka, Airborne Command & Control and Logistics Wing (ACCLOGWING) detachment chaplain assigned in Norfolk, started the training in May 2023 to provide preventative, proactive, and responsive/reactive training resources for Sailors assigned to the detachment.

“Training to and practicing mindfulness can lead to a variety of benefits that include improved emotion and stress regulation; better sleep; increased ability to handle life’s situations and get left of crisis; improved overall mental, physical, and spiritual health; and enhanced warfighting readiness to reach mission accomplishment,” Sroka said, who added the mindfulness training is offered twice weekly at the Norfolk detachment.
ACCLOGWING is home to operational and shore-based units, including the Fleet Replacement Squadron which is a training command. In addition to operational stressors, there are pockets of personnel who are on limited duty for various reasons to include those who are pregnant, have physical injuries, or who have mental health concerns.
Sroka said the decision to offer mindfulness practice was part of an overall desire to bring clinical level care and skills-based programming to the flight line to address the variety of personal and professional stressors. While he had heard about mindfulness earlier in his career, it was Sroka’s participation in the VA’s Mental Health Integration for Chaplain Services (MHICS) program that highlighted its benefits and applicability.
“The research is compelling,” Sroka said. “The positive impact of mindfulness techniques on brain function and stress regulation demand serious consideration.”
When looking to adopt New Year’s resolutions in 2024, Sroka suggests to understand the fundamental importance of mindfulness to stay better tuned into your body, mind and spirit.
“Mindfulness is fundamentally about fostering awareness in the present moment without evaluation or judgment. It is about noticing what is going on in body, mind, and spirit to include thoughts, emotions, and sensations in the present moment,” Sroka said. “Fostering present moment awareness is the fundamental skill in mindfulness practices.”
Sroka also notes that in addition to specific meditative exercises, routine daily activities can be done in a mindful way. This includes eating, walking, and even taking short breaks at our desks to notice our surroundings.
He added that humans can spend much of their time worrying about their futures or ruminating about the past. Humans are also naturally triggered when our minds perceive a threat, which engages the sympathetic nervous system and results in fight, flight, or freeze reactions.  
“When people are under constant high-demand stress it can lead toward the depletion of internal resources to deal with and recover from stress,” Sroka said.
To cope with these stressors, Sroka said that people can adopt easy mindfulness exercises to respond to a triggering episode.
“Deep or box breathing, for example, is an effective practice to engage the parasympathetic nervous system and calm down,” Sroka said. “The other level is through ongoing, regular practice, which improves working memory capacity in the brain, which then is directly related to improving emotion and stress regulation even in high-stress situations.”
Mindfulness can also improve one’s immune system functionality and sleep. Therefore, while considering New Year’s resolutions to apply in 2024, adopting mindfulness might be a practice to add to the list.  |  |  Navy FOIA  |  DoD Accessibility/Section 508  |  No Fear Act  |  Open Government  |  Plain Writing Act  |  Veterans Crisis Line  |  VA Vet Center  |  FVAPDoD Safe Helpline  |  Navy SAPR  |  NCIS Tips  |  Site Map  |  Privacy Policy  |  Contact Webmaster | Information quality | Public Use notice | Useful Links
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