For the past nine months, our nation has been on an emotional rollercoaster due to the effects of the global pandemic. In numerous articles here, I’ve outlined our approach at Fort Jackson and things we all need to do to protect ourselves and our mission. We are constantly communicating bi-weekly virtual town halls and through other means to keep stress, anxiety and fatigue to the lowest level for our Fort Jackson workforce, community and Families.Nonetheless, we have succumbed to our own level of stress, fatigue and anxiety due to the pandemic. Despite these things, we have continued to beat what appeared to be insurmountable odds just a little under nine months ago. Through an approach of prevention, detection, containment, and suppression, we have remained on pace with the virus, and in many cases, a step ahead of the virus. Our average of a 3% or less positivity rate during this pandemic to date is something to truly be proud of as a team.This by no means makes Team Jackson perfect nor does it make us invincible; but it does speak to our collective vigilance, discipline and mission focus. Sure, we have (more accurately, “I have”) plenty of doubters, naysayers and pessimists regarding our approach, plans, and way forward. If I had a dime for every criticism, skeptic, and pessimistic view directed at me or our team, we’d have enough funds to host a modest block party for our entire installation. Of course, this would have to be done post COVID-19.On the other hand, if I had a dime for every positive example, demonstration of individuals doing the right thing, and our team collectively finding new and innovative ways to “outsmart” the virus, we would have enough funds to host a Victory party for all of the Midlands. Our optimistic, disciplined, and driven teammates and Families have enabled us to be where we are to date. Although many blame COVID-19 for the stress and anxiety that has blanketed our society during this pandemic, we must first look at our individual selves to own up to how much of a role we play in proliferating anxiety.There is a famous line in an old movie by Denzel Washington where he states, “We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock, Plymouth Rock landed on us.” In a similar vein, “We didn’t land on COVID-19, COVID-19 landed on us.” This simple point is key in understanding that we cannot blame COVID-19 for the death and destruction it has caused; we must first look at ourselves to see how much we contributed to enabling COVID-19 to wreak such a destructive path.In a time of crisis, emergency, or in this case a pandemic, the easiest thing for most people to do is point the blame finger. When bad things happen, those bad things are generally viewed as someone else’s fault. Spoiler alert: we all have role to play in making this better or worse.It really doesn’t help to “back seat quarterback” every plan, approach or technique used to combat the virus at Fort Jackson or anywhere else. As I like to tell some folks, “if it were that simple to do A or B, we would have already done it.” From an outside or uninformed perspective, many things appear easy to do.Whereas the reality is easy to see. We view our health care professionals as our “first line of defense,” however, I’d argue the opposite. We, individual citizens, are the front lines of defense. And similar to a military defensive operation, if we are not vigilant, disciplined, and focused, the enemy penetrates our defense and kills or captures our high value assets like our logistics stores, our command and control nodes, etc. As individuals, we are allowing COVID-19 to penetrate our frontlines and overwhelm a high value asset in our health care services and providers. Simply put, as individuals, we must stop pointing the blame finger and shore up our defenses. We do this by doing the right thing at all times, ensuring others do as well, and each do our part to “build up” versus “tear down.”Another area where we can contribute to “optimism vs. pessimism” is to cease making false comparisons. The narrative of what constitutes an “outbreak” has changed several times over the past nine months. Based on the resumption of sports on multiple levels, an outbreak among eight players on an NFL football team is considered one of epic proportions—because it is. A 60-person football team equates to a single sleep bay in the basic training environment. A class of 40 students in an Advance Individual Training or officer course is larger than a basketball and baseball team roster combined. Thus far, the cases we have in our environment can only be compared to cases in similar or like-type environments. Historically, 1:46 new recruits arriving to Fort Jackson will test positive and 1:86 of our work force will test positive. Compare this to rates of 1:10 or 1:5 elsewhere outside of our gates. Comparing apples to pineapples does not really help any situation, but neither does comparing in general. However, if you must compare, make accurate and relevant comparisons.Lastly, the thing that each individual can do to help reduce anxiety is to stay informed. I’ve heard people state “I’ve stopped watching the news” or “I don’t believe what I’m seeing or reading.” This simply means that some individuals would rather bask in ignorance rather than seeking to be responsible and properly informed about how to protect themselves and others. The aforementioned sentiments serve to weaken our defenses and provide the virus more open space to roam and wreak havoc. Being informed and remaining informed is but one of our keys to success in this fight against the virus. Yes, information changes quickly—and it does become a little frustrating to keep up—but we must keep up. The virus is keen because we are not, invisible yet not invincible, and fast moving because we forfeit control. We have no other choice but to keep up, therefore we must stay informed.Over the next several months, take a deep look internally and rededicate yourself to doing your part to reduce anxiety. Service members, their Families, and our workforce sacrifice on a daily basis—along with this sacrifice comes the price of keeping stress, anxiety, and fear in check.These actions are what enables us to remain vigilant, disciplined, and mission-focused in all that we do. If every individual embraced this mindset, we can collectively slow the spread of the virus and get back to “normal” sooner rather than later. So my question to you is this—will you do your part?Victory! Starts Here!