Military News

Monday, March 02, 2015

Resiliency results in success

by Senior Airman Keenan Berry
509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

2/27/2015 - WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- To have resilience means to be able to withstand difficult conditions and come out on top.

In every Air Force career, Airmen are taught to be resilient when they are away from their homes and families.

However, for Airman 1st Class Henry Sorenson, 509th Security Forces Squadron member, this was a trait he learned before joining the Air Force.

Sorenson, who is from the small town of Cedar City, Utah, was born and raised as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was chosen to serve a mission in Brazil for two years. While there, Sorenson learned a great deal about the Brazilian culture.

"The process for applying for missions is similar to joining the Air Force," said Sorenson. "I had to do an interview, a screening and a background check to ensure I met the qualifications for the mission. The church then selects and sends qualified applicants to different places around the world. I happened to be chosen for Brazil. For two years, I went around communicating to the locals about the church."

Adjusting to different cultures can be tough, and for Sorenson that was a lesson he learned firsthand.

"When I first arrived in Brazil, I figured the local language was Spanish because I was in South America," said Sorenson, "but I was wrong. I went to a place called the Missionary Training Center in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where I received training for eight weeks along with other American missionaries. I had to room with Brazilian locals and none of them spoke English. It was a bit awkward and challenging trying to communicate with them with the little knowledge I had."

Sorenson eventually became fluent in Portuguese, but it was a rather difficult experience.

After eight weeks of training, Sorenson was sent to the missionary field where he was accompanied by a fluent expert. They assisted him with communicating to the locals whenever he required interaction. Throughout 22 months he began to pick up on the language the more he spoke with the locals. It was still a struggle.

"It was really awkward at times trying to convey religious messages to the locals," said Sorenson. "There were times I would go to someone with a memorized line and when they started to talk I would look to the expert for help. Some locals would hear my American accent and would shun me away; others were sincere enough to assist me with communicating to them."

Despite the difficulties with learning Portuguese, Sorenson learned the significance of work ethic.

"I was frustrated a lot of times because I didn't understand the language," said Sorenson. "Also I was a bit homesick missing my family and friends, but I kept persevering and eventually came out on top. A good life lesson I learned is when things get tough, that's the time when you really have to stand up and keep going."

Sorenson became resilient in his struggle to master the language and communicate his religious messages to the locals. Because of his dedication, Sorenson was able to pull through and accomplish his mission.

"Life is full of trials," said Master Sgt. Andrew Wells, 509th Civil Engineer Squadron assistant chief of hazardous material safety. "That adversity will give us experience and has the potential to strengthen us. An attitude of resiliency comes when we view mistakes and weakness as opportunities to learn, to the point that we accept losing as learning. This will help us focus on what we can do to change the situation instead of worrying about what is outside of our control."

Not only did Sorenson receive knowledge, he spent time giving back by teaching English to some of his friends.

"I didn't just go to Brazil for the religious aspect," said Sorenson. "I taught English to a few people who were going to universities. All the textbooks are written in English and they have to know it in order to progress through college. I think that benefited them in their endeavor to pursue a higher education."

Sorenson demonstrated resiliency on several accounts throughout his mission in Brazil. Despite his time away from family and friends, he gained new experiences that will last him a lifetime.

"I was able to make close friends and I still communicate with them via social media, which also keeps me fluent in the language," said Sorenson. "I've had the opportunity of visiting different locations, trying new foods and many activities others don't get a chance to experience. It's taught me life lessons which have carried on into my Air Force career, making me the Airman I am today."

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