Perseverance in the face of adversity its own reward

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Michael Gruber
  • 84th Radar Evaluation Squadron Officer in Charge, Mission Systems Flight
Some of the most rewarding experiences in life often demand a great amount of determination. When we choose to pursue a lofty dream or goal, a varying degree of struggle will inevitably ensue. In that moment of struggle, we must make a tough decision: Give up because it's too hard, or press on. If we choose to press on, then and only then are we able to discover our true potential. I believe our greatest moments come when we rise to the occasion and persevere to the finish.

Eighteen months ago, I completed the toughest endeavor of my life. After applying for a special tactics officer (STO) position, I received an invitation to Hurlburt Field, Fla., to try out. Known as Phase II, the seven-day selection process is designed to screen a small group of potential candidates. Phase II pushes every man well beyond his comfort zone, for the sole purpose of assessing his potential to lead Airmen both on and off the battlefield.

After virtually going nonstop for 72 hours, I came to my breaking point. We were 90 minutes into a grueling rucksack march; my legs were cramped and painfully stiff. I could no longer keep up with the lead man, so I feared getting removed from the course. The cadre pulled me aside and sat me on the curb. They gave me water and told me to make a decision. I had the look of defeat on my face, when a STO said to me, "Gruber, you're having a long talk with yourself right now, aren't you?" He knew exactly what was going on inside my head; agonizing battles with the demons of doubt, pain, sleep deprivation and exhaustion. This was my moment of truth; either dig deep and push through my perceived limits, or quit and go home. It wasn't easy, but I ultimately determined to keep going and managed to make it through the entire week.

Even though I accomplished my goal of finishing Phase II, I was not invited to begin the 18-month training pipeline. Instead, I was asked to improve in some areas, and come back the following year. It was disappointing to not get selected, but had I quit, returning would not have been an option. After many months of prayer and counsel, I chose not to try again the following year.

Since I did not go back to Phase II, whether I finished or quit doesn't seem like it should matter. To me, however, it mattered immensely. Persevering until completion taught me something about myself. I found a source of strength and resolve that I didn't know was possible. After enduring such a grueling experience, the words "I can" took on a whole new meaning. Finding success, even though I was on the brink of quitting, instilled a new sense of confidence into every aspect of my life.

I chose to share this experience because at some point in time, we will each find ourselves in a challenging situation. Most people can relate to the "long talk" in some way. We each have personal dreams and goals, but sometimes might question if we have the fortitude to see them through. It might be passing a physical training test, finishing school, aspiring to make chief or trying to save a marriage. Whatever obstacle you're facing, when you begin to question your desire, hang in there. Endure the storm, remember why you began the task, and never ever give up. Choosing to persevere in the face of adversity isn't always easy, but the character built along the journey will make every step worth it.