Instructor gathers her resiliency with goats, chickens

  • Published
  • By Air Force Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
  • I.G. Brown Training and Education Center

MCGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. -- With so many changes and demands Airmen face in their service these days, it can get challenging to disconnect and recharge to maintain resiliency. The U.S. Air Force wants healthy and ready minds, but it is also up to service members to find what best refuels them and give attention to it.

Tech. Sgt. Renee Wiederspahn, a professional military education instructor at the Lankford Enlisted PME Center in East Tennessee, decided to get some goats and chickens during the pandemic.

“The thing I like best about my farm animals is the peaceful nature that they have,” said Sergeant Wiederspahn. “I can sit down, out in the grass, and they will come to sit with me or run around and be silly with each other.”

Wiederspahn is one of nearly 40 instructors assigned to Lankford Center from the regular Air Force, the Air National Guard, and the Reserve Command. They teach NCO academy and Airman leadership school for the total force. The organization is conducting a mix of in-resident and virtual classes during the pandemic.

The technical sergeant is very busy at the campus, preparing to teach the Center’s first in-resident class of NCO academy students since before the pandemic. The students arrive on October 4. After the suspension of classes in March 2020, the organization quickly designed virtual learning programs for ALS and NCOA.

“Honestly, my hobby does not relate at all to what I do in the classroom, but the animals give me a sense of calm and help me relax, and I believe that I wouldn’t have handled these last months as well if I did not have them to visit every day,” said Sergeant Wiederspahn. Carrying feed and gathering chicken eggs is also good exercise.

Her assessment of relaxing, and the value of resiliency, contributes to a balanced life. The Air Force promotes Mental, Physical, Social, and Spiritual health through education, counselors, and special stand-down days dedicated to these Pillars of Resiliency.

Today, Sergeant Wiederspahn and her husband care for six pigmy goats and more than 20 chickens. She said that it might sound strange to some, but the animals are quiet.

“Well, most of the time, they are,” she said. “The goats are known to scream when I go outside to get my attention so I can give them treats.”