Resilency, developed through adversity

U.S. Air Force Capt. Ryan Ogilvy, 39th Medical Operations Squadron mental health practitioner, reflects on his career and how he joined the Air Force. Ogilvy, along with his flight, are responsible for assisting Airmen with mental health concerns. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Staff Sgt. Jack Sanders/Released)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Ryan Ogilvy, 39th Medical Operations Squadron mental health practitioner, reflects on his career and how he joined the Air Force. Ogilvy, along with his flight, are responsible for assisting Airmen with mental health concerns. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Staff Sgt. Jack Sanders/Released)

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place and I don't care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard you hit. It's about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done!, "Rocky Balboa"

In this inspirational quote from the movie, "Rocky Balboa" the main character, a fictional boxer, explains how every challenge is about how you bounce back; it's an example of resiliency or the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.

Resiliency and toughness can be easily related to a boxer, but for U.S. servicemembers around the world resiliency can be a much more challenging target. For Capt. Ryan Ogilvy, 39th Medical Operations Squadron mental health practitioner, that target is something he worked with frequently in his past, and continues to work with on the job.

"I'm a mental health practitioner, and I came into the Air Force with a mental health waiver," Ogilvy said.

Ogilvy was born into a religious family in state housing during the 1980s in Australia.

"I grew up in a fairly low social economic state housing," Ogilvy said. "A very church oriented family, and by about age 11 I had experienced some childhood abuse by a Sunday school teacher and there are some very traumatic memories of that... As I got older I had just this overwhelming urge to help people."

Ogilvy said his desire to help people developed at an early age, and that helping people and serving was something he wanted to do. Because of this, he decided to go to school for justice studies with the intention on becoming a police officer. 

"Somebody made the suggestion to me to become a prison officer and I applied and I was successful, so for 10 years I did that," he said.

During his time as a prison officer, Ogilvy worked primarily in men's maximum security prison mainly as a case manager, before transferring to a women's maximum security prison where he worked for six months. From there his journey to help people took him to work in child protection.

"I experienced the gambit of society by that point," he said. "I'd seen and worked with some of the worst offenders, in my states history at least."

Working in child protection drove Ogilvy to further his education, so he switched his studies from corrections to social work where he eventually went on to earn a doctorate.

In 2008, Ogilvy made the decision to move to the U.S. from Australia deciding it was a better fit for his family, despite the $50,000 a year pay cut.

"For me, moving to the U.S. meant that I could combine my passions," he said. "Being a military social worker was an opportunity for me to both wear a uniform and do [the social work] I like doing."

After undergoing the process of obtaining his U.S. citizenship Ogilvy wasted no time and immediately enlisted into the U.S. Army National Guard.

"I felt like, being a first generation immigrant, it was important for me to repay my country for the opportunities afforded to me by being granted a U.S. citizen," he said.  "However, five weeks into basic training I had a lot of problems adjusting."

Due to the similarities between basic training conditions and some traumatic issues in his past Ogilvy was unable to progress through training.

"There are things like going on church camps and things like where when you go to basic training the conditions are very similar," Ogilvy said. "You're bunking with other people so, I got lots of flash back I guess you can say."

Despite his desire to serve and help people Ogilvy, with the help of the mental health providers decided he wasn't a good fit for the service.

"I was waivered out of training and sent home," he said. "From there, I spent a lot of time during the next two years addressing what I thought was already addressed. I got the help I needed."

But just like Rocky, Ogilvy said he didn't stay down when a challenge presents itself.

"I'm very motivated," he said. "I like challenges. In the end it was really just a challenge. I approached a recruiter and said, 'Hey I know I'm a complicated case, but I really want to serve my country.' He didn't blink an eye at taking me on. He got me with a lieutenant colonel who, at that time, was at a military base close to where I lived and we talked.

"He helped get me the opportunity to get in," Ogilvy said. "I required a mental health waiver to get in and I got that. It really was just a matter of being persistent and trying to look for the opportunity to demonstrate that I was ready to serve my country."

Ogilvy's drive to serve and his understanding of getting assistance when he needed it allowed him to be resilient and bounce back stronger than before. His persistence allowed him to go the distance to achieving his goal of joining the Air Force.

"Resiliency is a trait that is not learned but developed through adversity," Ogilvy said. "It is the ability for a person to overcome one obstacle and then another. To work through a problem, accepting that it is what it is and arriving at the conclusion that anything can be overcome. After every adverse event a person is able to overcome, they gain the potential to realize that they are more capable than they thought and stronger than they often allow themselves to believe. Simply put, in order to become resilient, you have to experience adversity and overcome it."