Pilots undergo high-performance mindset training

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Keira Rossman
  • 47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

Instructor pilots experienced a unique opportunity to gain insights into high-performance mindset training through the Warrior's Edge training program from Oct. 4 to 5, 2023.  

The program focuses on developing psychological flexibility and mental strength in high-stress environments.  

"Warrior's Edge is a pathway for training your mind," said retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Dr. Jannell MacAulay, co-founder of Warrior's Edge Mindset Training. "Through the use of 16 principles of mindset, the course helps individuals create habit patterns and tangible ways to operationalize the concept of training their mind. Most importantly, we package it in a way that makes it easy for people to immediately start integrating the skill sets they learned into their lives. So as an individual, it's a great training program to help you be a better leader, parent, pilot, operator or whatever your career field is."    

Due to their critical roles in teaching students through high-stress situations, First Assignment Instructor Pilots (FAIPs) were the target audience for the session.  

Maintaining composure and clearly communicating to student pilots under challenging conditions are essential skills to cultivate.  

"Being an Air Force pilot is being an athlete," said 1st Lt. Lucas Sochinski, 87th Flying Training Wing instructor pilot, "so the techniques I learned from Warrior's Edge are great tools to work into my everyday life. My goal with the Warrior's Edge training is to be able to relay the tips and strategies I learned to students to help them tackle the anxiety that comes with being an undergraduate pilot training (UPT) student."  

By partnering with private industries, Laughlin aims to tap into external knowledge, technologies and practices that can significantly enhance its personnel's resilience. This strategy aims to cultivate an adaptable, comprehensive and well-informed approach to resiliency efforts within the pilot community.  

The Warrior's Edge program delves into the phenomenon of mind-wandering and its impact on performance.  

MacAulay served 20 years in the Air Force as a C-21, C-130, and KC-10 pilot; commander; special operations consultant; international diplomat; and professionalism instructor. In her teachings, MacAulay highlights that the average human mind spends 47% of the time not focused on the present, according to a Harvard study of 2,250 adults by Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert in 2010. She explains that our internal mindset often leads to decreased focus and performance compared to external distractions.   

The Warrior's Edge program fortifies the mind and imparts high-performance mindset skills, fostering psychological flexibility and mental strength. Warrior's Edge seeks to assist teams in effectively managing stress and enhancing performance by embracing the concept of heightened mindfulness.    

"On the organizational level, when each individual optimizes their performance, we create a high-performing team," said MacAulay. "When each individual shows up as their best and lock arms together, that makes an unstoppable team."   

During the event, participants engaged in a series of workshops.  

They began with a three-hour introduction to the Warrior's Edge High-Performance Mindset.  

This portion introduces the fundamentals of formal mental training for success. It covers concepts such as mindfulness and personal philosophy development, encouraging self-discovery around values, vision, purpose and character.   

Next, the program covered commanding one's mindset and elevating performance. This stage included three individual breakout sessions that delved into mindset training concepts.  

The sessions involved small group collaborations, exercises and practical training focused on confidence, optimism, stress management and performance optimization.   

"The Warrior's Edge program was helpful in terms of training an often overlooked part of training – mental health," said Sochinski. "It provided many skills that can be immediately implemented in our daily lives, not just in flying. I enjoyed learning practical, research-based techniques to help me handle the daily grind and stress of flying while improving my overall mental health." 

In addition to the selected FAIP attendees, base facilitators were selected to spread the knowledge amongst Airmen. 

One facilitator, Senior Master Sgt. Shani Hayward, 47th Operation Support Squadron HARM superintendent, described their experience as being equipped with the mindset and skills needed to excel in challenging situations, both in their military and personal life. 

“In the future I aim to be present in the moment by practicing deep breathing or meditation to help me stay focused when I’m feeling overwhelmed or under pressure,” said Hayward. “One of my goals is to take the tools that I learned and pass them along to my team.” 

The Warrior's Edge program brings together expertise from various fields, including Nicole Davis, retired two-time silver medal Olympian and mental performance/mindset coach; Pete Carroll, the head coach of the 2014 Super Bowl Champions; Alex Honnold, the only free solo climber of El Capitan's 3,000-foot vertical rock wall without rope or gear; Arianna Huffington, the founder and CEO of Thrive Global, The Huffington Post and author of 15 books; and more.  

The workshops incorporate expert videos, examples and testimonials, offering a comprehensive approach to high-performance mindset training.     

"Warrior's Edge is unique in that it combines an operator mindset with that of the warrior athlete," said MacAulay. "It creates space for using the best in practice skillsets that are used in alpha competitive environments. While also being anchored in the challenges today's warfighter faces."