Third Storytellers inspires resiliency

Lt. Col. Joel Sloan, 27th Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron commander, retells the heartbreaking story of his and his wife’s struggle with the loss of three children to spinal muscular atrophy during the third Storytellers event May 20, 2016, at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. Storytellers was created to inspire resiliency within teammates and wingmen. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Chip Slack)

Lt. Col. Joel Sloan, 27th Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron commander, retells the heartbreaking story of his and his wife’s struggle with the loss of three children to spinal muscular atrophy during the third Storytellers event May 20, 2016, at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. Storytellers was created to inspire resiliency within teammates and wingmen. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Chip Slack)

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- It is true what they say: "Every Airman has a story." But when you stop to think about it, that only gets one so far. It is not about whether or not we have our stories, it is about whether or not we share our stories. If we share our stories, we are able to make a difference...we can change lives.

The United States Air Force is comprised of more than 307,000 Airmen from all walks of life, economic backgrounds and cultural diversities – each bringing numerous experiences and insights to be shared. Storytellers was created to encourage Airmen to share their stories; to get the stories out in the open and watch them change the lives of those in attendance.

Four Air Commandos from various ranks and squadrons across the 27th Special Operations Wing bravely took center stage May 20 at the Landing Zone to bare the most vulnerable and protected part of their souls – the stories that have defined them as members of the Air Force, and more importantly, as human beings.

“Some of the greatest examples of resiliency come from the stories of our peers,” said Janice Jones, 27th SOW community support coordinator. “Events such as Storytellers showcase our ability as humans to demonstrate post traumatic growth. Our goal is for attendees at the event to find a common thread they can relate to and grow from based off of the experience of a fellow wingman.”

Lt. Col. Joel Sloan, 27th Special Operations Civil Engineering Squadron commander, opened the event with the heartbreaking retelling of his and his wife’s struggle with the loss of three children to spinal muscular atrophy; Tech. Sgt. Kelley Figaro, 56th Special Operations Intelligence Squadron non-commissioned officer in charge, relived the tragic memories of an abusive childhood after her mother committed suicide; Tech. Sgt. David Megeath, 27th Special Operations Maintenance Group senior weapons systems coordinator, revealed a past filled with sexual and physical abuse and the consequences of not dealing with such experiences; and Airman 1st Class Katie Pospyhalla, 727th Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron electronic and environmental systems apprentice, opened up about the tragic loss of her brother.

Tying all of the stories together through a common theme of resiliency, Capt. Marty Barnes, 27th Special Operations Wing chaplain, helped create an environment of understanding. As each storyteller walked off stage, Barnes asked attendees to take a moment and reflect on the story they had just heard.

“All of us have experienced professional or personal struggles in our careers and lives,” said Master Sgt. Joshua Watts, 27th Special Operations Force Support Squadron career assistance advisor. “Storytellers encourages people to step back and realize that we are all human. We can choose to see those struggles or failures as stepping-stones rather than stop signs.”