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Airman's Mental Toughness Lifestyle
by U.S. Air Force Airman Synsere Howard
August 12, 2023

In a world where motivation and determination are often scarce, people like U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Sean Carey stand out. Carey’s a strong believer in challenging yourself to strive for greatness.

August 2, 2023 - U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Sean Carey, 31st Maintenance group aerospace ground equipment journeyman, prepares to rock-climb near Dardago, Italy. Carey enjoys the outdoors and is a strong believer in challenging yourself physically and mentally to stay mission ready. (U.S. Air Force photo by (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Synsere Howard.)
August 2, 2023 - U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Sean Carey, 31st Maintenance group aerospace ground equipment journeyman, prepares to rock-climb near Dardago, Italy. Carey enjoys the outdoors and is a strong believer in challenging yourself physically and mentally to stay mission ready. (U.S. Air Force photo by (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Synsere Howard.)

Carey grew up in a small town named Oakley, in northern California. As a child Carey had a deep passion for the outdoors. Inspired by his grandfather, a world-traveling fisherman, Carey developed an unwavering love for adventure and a desire to challenge himself physically and mentally. He has immense gratitude for the people in his life that have helped mold him into the person he is today.

“Early on, my grandparents and father taught me how to handle problems in certain situations,” said Carey. “Once I got into the military, I had a couple of mentors. My supervisor here invested a lot of time into getting me out of my shell.”
At the age of 19, Carey joined the U.S. Air Force with dreams of becoming a Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape specialist. However, fate had a different plan in store for him. He faced a humbling experience when he was washed out of the program.

“SERE taught me a lot about myself, how much you can endure and how many senses can experience suffering,” said Carey. “For some reason I kind of enjoyed that.”

Determined not to let this setback define him, Carey redirected his focus and currently has his sights set on becoming a Pararescueman. Training 5-6 times a day, Carey pushed himself to the limits both physically and mentally. Carey knew that physical strength alone was not enough. He recognized the significance of mental fitness in overcoming obstacles.
“At some point your body is going to hit a wall,” said Carey. “If you don't strengthen your mind and really have good control over it, you're not going to be able to push past it.”

To build this mental resiliency, Carey challenged himself with uncomfortable tasks, such as making his bed every morning and taking cold showers. These small acts gradually became habits, empowering him to overcome moments of doubt and keep pushing forward.

“I do small things outside of my comfort zone that just add up and become habits,” said Carey. “This helps build resiliency, and when I feel like I might want to quit or stop running I revert into a different mental state and I'm fine. I know I can just keep pushing past it.”

July 17, 2023 - U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Sean Carey, 31st Maintenance group aerospace ground equipment journeyman, checks his stopwatch after completing his swim intervals at Aviano Air Base, Italy. Carey swims multiple times per week, working on breath holds, his swim time and becoming more comfortable in the water pushing himself physically and mentally, with the goal of becoming a Pararescueman. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Synsere Howard.)
July 17, 2023 - U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Sean Carey, 31st Maintenance group aerospace ground equipment journeyman, checks his stopwatch after completing his swim intervals at Aviano Air Base, Italy. Carey swims multiple times per week, working on breath holds, his swim time and becoming more comfortable in the water pushing himself physically and mentally, with the goal of becoming a Pararescueman. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Synsere Howard.)

For Carey, putting himself in uncomfortable situations was a crucial part of personal growth. He believed that these experiences were the best teachers, revealing his true capabilities. Whether it was hiking up a steep trail or facing the daunting challenges of the pool, Carey understood that discomfort was a catalyst for self-discovery. By conquering these obstacles, he gained a better understanding of his own strength and resilience.

“Sergeant Carr-Perez has been my training partner for the last two years,” said Carey. “I attribute a lot of my training progress to him. He taught me most of what I know about military swimming and water confidence.”

Carey was given the opportunity to attend Army Ranger school, a 61-day course that prepares Soldiers for combat leadership roles. Carey’s time at Army Ranger school not only honed his physical endurance and metal resilience, but it also instilled in him the importance of camaraderie and effective communication.

“I had to learn how to fail and continue to push past every recycle phase,” said Carey. “It was a powerful experience. I was able to use those experiences getting recycled to help guys that were going through those phases for the first time.”

Through the challenges and setbacks he faced, he learned the value of perseverance and the ability to motivate others. Carey emerged from Army Ranger school with a profound understanding of the power of teamwork and the ability to thrive in uncomfortable situations.

“Don't take no for an answer, especially if it's something you really want to do or get after,” said Carey. “Keep pushing.”

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