MindForce: Mental Fitness & Career Stories!

Leading with Authenticity and Empathy: The Shogun Chief Ronnie Woods' Guide

November 22, 2023 Nathaniel Scheer Season 1 Episode 9
MindForce: Mental Fitness & Career Stories!
Leading with Authenticity and Empathy: The Shogun Chief Ronnie Woods' Guide
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Picture this: A young boy from inner-city Chicago grows up to serve nearly 24 years in the Air Force, marking a journey of resilience, self-acceptance, and leadership. That's the story of our guest, Showgun Chief Ronnie Woods. Ronnie shares his compelling life and career narrative, emphasizing the importance of normalizing mental health conversations along the way. He reveals how he bravely transitioned from an unstructured environment to the demanding regimen of the military, and the struggles he faced in finding self-acceptance.

Ronnie's leadership journey is nothing short of inspiring, as he talks about managing the transition from leading a small base of 3,000 people to a much larger one of 23,000. He shares the crucial lessons he learned about cherishing moments and finding his leadership voice. Not one to shy away from personal revelations, Ronnie also opens up about his superpower of making people smile, and how he uses it to build lasting connections.

A key focus of our conversation is mental fitness. Ronnie courageously shares his experiences with mental health, casting light on the often unspoken stigma of expressing emotions within the black community, and his personal fight to break it down. In a world where the fear of seeking help can impact one's career, Ronnie passionately advocates for daily mental health care and the balance of confidence and humility. Ending on a note of authenticity and impact, Ronnie reminds us that a legacy is not shaped by accomplishments alone, but by how we make others feel. So, tune in and join us on this inspiring journey with Ronnie.

Scheerious Positivity!

Nate Scheer:

Welcome to the show Mind Matters, the podcast on love, life and learning. Today we have the showgun chief in the house and, as always, we're trying to break the stigma on mental health. As you know, on this show we're changing some of our nomenclature, so we're calling it mental fitness here. So we want to make sure it's easy to talk about and it's normal. If you had a buddy that was going to the gym and you asked him what is he doing, you'd be saying back and buys it's kind of a reps. He'd be going through all these things we talk about mental health. It gets kind of more in the negative realm and it gets a little difficult, but it should be the same thing. Hey, I found this breathing technique. Hey, I'm going to yoga. We should be able to talk through these things. So today we got the showgun chief in the house. Thank you, chief. Thanks for squeezing us in here so real quick. I think majority of people know who you are, but could you give us a quick intro?

CMSgt Woods:

Yeah, absolutely so. The showgun chief, at least here for the next few days. I'll be transitioning to 8th and 4th soon. But chief master sergeant Ronnie Woods was born and raised in Chicago, illinois, grew up in the inner city A lot of gangs, drugs and violence. Both parents have substance abuse issues. I played a lot of sports as a kid, wanted to do something with myself, so I raised my hand, volunteered to serve my country, joined through United States Air Force. I've been in United States Air Force for about 23,. Going on 24 years. My background in security forces also was a battle management controller. For about 7 years I was an operations group superintendent at Scott Air Force Base. Then I became the wolf chief out at Coonson. I was out there for about a year and then I became the showgun chief and I've been here for about a year and a half and, like I said before, I was fortunate enough. Due to the hard work of the showguns here at Cadena, I was selected to be the 8th Air Force command chief out there. Mary got three children. My wife was in the Air Force for a little bit. Akiah I got a son, united States Air Force right now he's the Air Force class Got a 17 year old daughter that stayed down in Mobile, alabama, and I got my 12 year old here, aliyah. We've been here and we enjoy life. I'm an easygoing person. I like to call myself, you know, ambivert, introverted and extroverted at the same time, and I really like doing this. I really appreciate you getting me out, because I really want to touch on this topic that we're going to be talking about and just really just give my perspective on things. So, thank you.

Nate Scheer:

Yes, sir, thank you, chief, thanks for squeezing me in. You're out processing, running around like we all know how that goes, so I'm really glad that could happen. I'm really excited, really pumped, to have you. I was really nervous, I really wanted to have you on the show, but you're a huge personality so it kind of deterred me. But I always tell my troops you got to get outside the comfort zone, got to try new things. So if I'm not doing it myself, you know how can I live with myself? So I'm super excited you did. I kept seeing your posts on social media my last, this, my last, that like, oh no, the days are counting down, the time is counting down. So I'm super glad that you were able to squeeze me in. I just wanted to throw out one fun thing here real quick. I know you're from Chicago so it's funny as a kid you have certain things you have to have for Christmas, birthday, whatever it was. Most of the time it's toys, RC cars, different stuff. But I remember one year I had to have that bull starter pullover jacket with one pocket up front, 100%. Oh, that thing was sweet. My mom finally got it for me and I wore that thing until the white on the sleeves were all faded and crazy. I wonder where that thing is at? Probably in the trash, but great. I've always loved the colors red and black, so that's awesome. It's my favorite colors.

CMSgt Woods:

Yes, sir, I wear it almost every day.

Nate Scheer:

Every day. It's like you're going to wear another color.

CMSgt Woods:

I'm like no, why.

Nate Scheer:

Not at all. So first question this is from senior master sergeant Rivers. So he's a good friend of mine and he uses this question to kind of get to know the person in a quick, quick span, because we only have less than an hour, and so I think this one's cool. Three part question. I'll break it down so one at a time. What's one app that you're using?

CMSgt Woods:

What's one app that I use, what an app that I use the most is Apple Music. So I'm a big music person, so so a lot of people talk about like resilience and like what you do to like take care of yourself off duty, and for me, a big part of it's listening to music. You know, maybe maybe having a drink, sometimes a Gatorade, sometimes it's sometimes it's whiskey, you know, listen to music and I love all genres of music, but my favorite is hip hop and R&B. So that's absolutely my favorite app and one app that I've kind of evolved into, because I'm kind of transitioning from being like a older adult to an old man. So, I'm going through that transition right now, and my second favorite app is YouTube. Oh, so I don't really like reading books. I do read books just for mental exercise, but I'm more like reading document. It's just good with me watching videos, that's documentaries. So everything from the highlights of the Bulls Gang to the history of Okinawa, to how better to smoke and grill meat. I watch all these videos and I kind of go down these rabbit holes where they kind of how these recommended videos and I really do enjoy that now watching from my phone or from my fire stick as well.

Nate Scheer:

Yeah, that's awesome. You can learn anything on the internet now, Absolutely so. Second part one book. You recommend One book.

CMSgt Woods:

I recommend. So my favorite book and I read this book about about 10 times is a start with why by Simon Sinek, and the reason I love that book and usually when I need a little bit of motivation, I reread it because I think we live in a generation now where we have to articulate the why, to like our personnel that's below us and I think we owe them that. So I come from a generation where we were somewhat like robots. You know, like, especially in an organization like the military, was very bureaucratic. You know you have a rank structure and things like that. We just did it just because they they told us to do it. But in 2023, I think, to be like a transformational leader, not only do you need to tell them what they're doing, but you need to explain the why to them and what it means to them. And if you can, you can overcome that. You can inspire others. And again, when I'm when I need a little bit of motivation, sometimes I need to be reminded of that. So I read that book from time to time. I read all his books, but that's my favorite is a start with why by Simon Sinek.

Nate Scheer:

Yeah, it's a good thing we've transitioned from the shut up in color. Right, get stuff done, but does it get it done the best way, most efficient? That's good stuff. And the last one you kind of touched on it. But what are some things you're listening or watching? Kind of touched on that with YouTube, but is there anything specifically you're listening to or watching?

CMSgt Woods:

Actually, right now, you know, because I have so little time, I don't really get into like watching TV shows right now. What I've been doing on YouTube is I watch like the recaps. So I watch like a subtle watching, like the the entire show. I watched like a 15 minute recap. What a what a kind of break it down. I've heard through the grapevine I don't know if this is true or not that working at the number there, of course I have a little bit more time on my hands versus spending a thousand plates that I do as a show. So I'm actually looking forward to binge watching some TV shows and reading more books and doing some of that stuff, because, because right now, with the role I have, right now, when I have a little bit of time, I just have to invest that into myself and my family.

Nate Scheer:

Got to use it, yeah. So next question what's one lesson you've learned that you think everyone in life should know?

CMSgt Woods:

For me, the one thing that I've learned that everyone should know is to be yourself. So for me, you know like I have a very unique backstory where growing up in the inner city and both parents had substance abuse issues, so I grew up in a very unstructured environment. So making that transition from an unstructured environment to the military was extremely challenging. And I was making that transition and probably the first five years of being in the military I wasn't being myself. I was being what I thought the military wanted me to be, and it took me about five years to really come to the conclusion that I can be myself. I can be exactly who I am, the moral and the value system that I have within me, the things that I like to do. I can be that and the Air Force is going to fully accept that and I can be successful at that. And I wish I knew that a lot earlier in my career, because when I started to be myself, the one thing that I didn't realize that was going to be a result of that Is actually was more comfortable in my own skin. But I made everyone else around me more comfortable because people can see when you're holding something back, and I was always holding something back. Like I was, I will always be in the environment at work. I will hold stuff back and then when I start to be myself, it made everyone else more comfortable and then people will start to. We'll start to have commonalities like yes, I love hip hop music, I like Jay-Z. Yes, I like to drink a whiskey or drink Hennessy from time to time, but I also like sports and I used to have a lot of commonalities with a lot of my coworkers with sports, because I love the bulls, the bears, the cubs and the black hogs. That's why I wear the bulls all the time, because I'm really into that. And again, like a mentor told me when I was about a staff sergeant, he said the hardest thing in the world is to be something you know and the easiest thing in the world is to be yourself. And I can't prove it, but I'm pretty sure it is a direct connection to when I start to have career success, when I became comfortable in my own skin. I can't prove it, but I feel like that play, that he was rolling it, that I was. I was comfortable with who I was, so I was. I wish I could have did that a little earlier in my career.

Nate Scheer:

That's awesome. That's a really good point. I remember I was there traffic for five years and then I was contracting for three and then I got lucky enough and blessed enough to become a medical service corps officer. But I remember when I got picked up and got my commission I thought for sure I had to be this. No fun having hardcore. I'm an officer now, and so I tried to do that for the first year and it just wasn't me. So it falls apart. I'm goofy, I'm fun, I'm making everyone laugh and smile and that's who I have to be. So I think, like you said, I wish I would have thought of that a little earlier. At least it didn't go on for too long. But I'm sure, like you said, most people could probably see through and realize it wasn't the true me. I just am who I am and that's how it has to be and be honest with you like.

CMSgt Woods:

we really good at having these different personalities in the military. We are really good at it, and sometimes we take it for granted that we have people come from all walks of life and we can be singularly focused despite all of that. And that's why I tell people to be themselves, because that's what makes us work. That's what makes us great. When you bring what you bring to the table and your best element, when you can do that in your best element and everybody has different personalities, different backgrounds it's just you can make it work really great. So just go out there and be yourself.

Nate Scheer:

Absolutely. So we're going to move on into the warm up. So absolutely, love sports analogies, right? So the bullpen you got to get warmed up, got to stretch those muscles, so we're going to warm up through a couple of questions. So I'm going to shoot three your way, you're going to shoot three my way, and then we'll move on into the rest of the mental fitness. But first question I got for you, for everyone out there how do you handle selection to either a short notice assignment and or a job that maybe wasn't at the top of your list?

CMSgt Woods:

That's a great question because I'm living that right now. So and I will tell everyone out there, you know, like, like command chiefs and senior senior leaders a void from having like, like mental challenges. So it was super cool getting this assignment because obviously it provides career success. But then when you look at your family and you look that you have to uproot your daughter out of school in the middle of a school year she's going to the fifth school in the last seven years and you look up and you look at all that and and the way that I've handled it is always surround myself with good people where I can kind of open myself up and be able to speak my mind to them and kind of tell them what I got going on. It was a lot of peace and valleys. You I had what I call successors remorse, and that's when you feel bad because of some of the success you had. You know, leaving, leaving here early it wasn't the way I wanted to leave and and just really talking to a lot of my mentors and I've been, I've had every emotion and the last, seriously, in the last month, I've had every emotion. I've been upset, I've been excited, I've been frustrated, I've been depressed. I felt like I've let like the airman down. I felt like ecstatic, like every emotion you can have. Like I went through it, but I've always been extremely open with like how I feel about things, whether that's my wife or whether that's like people I surround myself with, and that's what really helped me through it, because I'm really at peace with everything now, which is super cool, like I'm totally at peace with it and I'm excited about what the future holds.

Nate Scheer:

Perfect. That's good, so I'm glad you were able to process yes. I think that's the military in a nutshell. I use the analogy of a roller coaster. Sometimes you got the, the highs, the lows, the screams, the all sorts of stuff in there. So it's good stuff.

CMSgt Woods:

And those sounds that y'all hear, we on an Air Force installation, and that is airpower, what we hear right now.

Nate Scheer:

The sound of freedom, the sound of freedom. So next question reflect back on your time here. I'd really like to hear your big differences between being the showgun chief and the wolf chief. What were the highs and lows between Korea and here?

CMSgt Woods:

Oh, that is a phenomenal question because I really struggled with that, like a lot of people don't know. I really struggle with it because it's two totally different roles, like being a wolf chief and being a showgun chief. It's two totally different roles. The wolf chief is a very small base it's about 3,000 people there in total and you're somewhat like a like a little mini celebrity being a command chief. Everybody knows who you are, you know everybody there and it's a very like close knit unit. That unit was also very like easy to command. I didn't know it at the time because everyone's singularly focused, high culture, high morale, one mission. And now you transition and Kdena is the total opposite. So you have 23,000 people here on the yard, you have representation from all services, you have army, you have neighbor, you have Marines, you have the space force. You have, you have everything here. You have the schools here, you have families here. You don't have families there and it's not a singularly focused wing. You have fighters, you have command and control platforms, you have tankers, you have rescue assets, you have airlift assets, you have assets from the Navy, you have assets from the army. You have all of that here and you have to learn how to be able to lead in an environment where everyone's thinking and looking a little differently. But you got to get them singularly focused and for me it took about about three to four months for me to kind of find my leadership voice, because I didn't realize it at the time. But being a wolf chief was somewhat easy. I just had to go, just show my personality and go lead, which was very easy. Here I had to learn how to pick my spots. I had to learn how to prioritize things, because you can't do everything, and it's been the biggest challenge of my career and I'm I'm glad that I was able to figure it out.

Nate Scheer:

What's something you learned here that you're going to take to your next job? What I've learned here is.

CMSgt Woods:

I tell people all the time is is cherish the moments. So in my career it's been like for me it's been like just walking up like a mountain, right, and I'm walking up this mountain, but the mountain like that mountain top never is. So I've been walking up this mountain, I've been trying to get to the top, trying to get to the top, and what I've learned about being at Kadena Air Base is sometimes you've got to stop and take a picture when you're going up that mountain and just sit down, just look around and just cherish the moments, enjoy the moments, and I've been able to do that here a lot more than I have anywhere else and I think maybe because I'm not close to being done, but I know like it's like I'm on, I'm more close to being done from being, from starting at this point in my career. So I'm starting to self-reflect and try to take everything in a little bit more, and I did that here and my wife actually reminded me of that. You know like cuz. You know, like I said, sometimes you have a little bit of remorse when you got to leave, not in a way you want to, but I felt like I I've spent a lot of time like cherishing the moments and enjoying the moments and not just always thinking about what's next all the time. So that's, that's been a. That's what I've learned to do here, and I didn't do a good job with that at Kunsan. I Didn't stop it, take a picture, I just kept climbing the mountain and thinking about what was next.

Nate Scheer:

That reminds me. There's a small book from retired Todd Simmons yes, simmons, so I read it every morning. It's kind of my morning routine to get through it and I remember I was ripping through it. And day 30 is take a knee, and One of the one of the times I went through it we were a few months into COVID. I was over medical logistics. We were trying to get all the PPE, the vaccines, everything out and that one hits so hard on that morning it sometimes just got to take a knee. You know, take a deep breath and press on. You can't do everything, so it's always a good reminder. Last question I have for you in the warm-up, so I wanted a little more reflection from you. So in a previous podcast you discussed this quote I need you to be your best, not just try your best. Yes, from Brigadier General Edward, september 2020. Does that still ring true or do you have any more reflection on that quote?

CMSgt Woods:

No, I always, always. I really love that quote because you know, um, you control a lot. You don't control a lot, excuse me, and I think one of the things that you do control is like your effort, and I feel like you got to leave it like all on the field and try to and try to be your best, and that's something that I live by Every day, that's something that I try to inspire others to do every day, and and if you can do that, if you can follow that great course, a phenomenal quote, if you can follow that great quote, you, you will be able to achieve success.

Nate Scheer:

Absolutely. Thank you, chief. What questions you got for me? We're gonna mix it up. I feel like most interviews just go one direction, but with mental fitness it should be a conversation, so we're gonna go back and forth. What do you got for me, chief? My first question for you is uh, why are you still doing it? What keeps you motivated?

CMSgt Woods:

to do this.

Nate Scheer:

Uh, so for me, uh, I feel like sometimes, I'm a walking cliche, but it's really about the people. So, air traffic I could have made more money outside contracting. I got my dau level two so I could have left at that point and made more money. But I have a personal story, uh, I highlighted in the pilot episodes. I won't go too far into it, but I had a Red cross notification. My dad passed away. I flew all the way around the world from Guam. I was able to get there before he passed away, um, and it wasn't until I got all the way back to my house. Um realized that someone had swept and mopped my floors, put my dishes away, they drew a picture of my dogs that were, uh, you know, getting babysat, and they went through all this stuff. And so I think if I worked at amazon, google, like, would they have kept my house alive? Would they kept it from burning down? Absolutely, absolutely. Would they have taken the time to sweep and mop my floor? I just don't see it. So, uh, that kind of was something that was poured into me and I've had a few different incidences of that where it's been more like a family than a work environment. It's been more like a family than a work environment. So now it's just my duty to to keep paying back, not that one incident, but just multiple things where it just feels like we're in it together instead of just seven, thirty, four, thirty checking the clock.

CMSgt Woods:

Absolutely Um. My next question for you so so I call us in a military. We, like the great one percenters, right, like one percent of the country, um, raised their hand the size to serve that country and we're all superheroes. You, a superhero? What's your superpower?

Nate Scheer:

Uh, I think my superpower would probably be making people smile. Yes, um, so always trying to make people laugh, saying good morning, um, as I pass people in the morning, asking people if they're doing okay, and, and I hope that if anyone ever needed anything as we pass in the hallway they would stop, and I try to do that. When I have my flights, I do an initial like about me, which is very brief and kind of to the point, because I don't want to get too Mushy up front, but about the three or four month mark I bring the flight back together and get a little more vulnerable and talk about some of the negative things that have happened in my past and, uh, the whole point of that is to try to bridge the gap. So, yeah, the idea is never to say I've seen it all and you know, I know all. That's not the idea at all, but it's if you needed to talk to somebody, sit with me and let me know. The two big ones for me are you want me to fix it? Yeah, or you just want me to listen? Yeah, because I can just listen, that's perfect. But I think that happens a lot of times where people want to pour out, but I think you're gonna start making phone calls and so right off the bat, like Seeing how they're doing and then trying to take care of them.

CMSgt Woods:

And, uh, I'll get you ended on. I gave some thought provoking ones on those first two, so I'm uh, I'm gonna go a little bit soft on this. What's your favorite application that you like using right now?

Nate Scheer:

Uh, mine's probably a terrible example, but facebook uh, so I'm on. So I'm on the United States Air Force commissioning page. I try and help people come in if they're curious on becoming an msc. Because, uh, back story on that I was at seven and a half years, the cutoffs eight, and I randomly found out about it in a cubicle and contracting, and so again, it's one of those things I feel an ownership to let people know. Uh, because I, if another six, seven months would have went by, I would have missed that opportunity altogether and this was the first time where this was the thing I needed to do. So I woke up every morning, I enjoyed contracting, um, I enjoyed air traffic, but I feel like, again, walking cliche, but I didn't feel that click, that match until I became an msc when I love to help people. I can't do blood and needles because I pass out Right, but I get to run the backside and constantly help people on the backside of that clinic and I know that. You know the patients are getting taken care of, my people are getting taken care of, and so I have a, a fire really every day to get out of bed and get after it.

CMSgt Woods:

And that's awesome. And I have like a somewhat of a similar story, but in the opposite way. So you know, when I was a tech sergeant, uh, I had, I had a couple of degrees already and uh, I was strongly considering crossing over um and and trying to become an officer. And uh, I just never would do the paperwork. And my wife was like, why, why haven't you? Why aren't you getting the paperwork done? Like you, you would be a great officer. And I I just told her, I was just honest with her. I was like, and I'm not intrinsically motivated To be the decision maker, like I'm intrinsically motivated by developing people, by inspiring people, by motivating people, by Ensuring people are ready. Like the commander doesn't do that, the chief does that Absolutely. And uh, and I was like, baby, if you, um, if you're okay with it, because financially it just made no sense, you know, to stay on the enlisted side. I was like, if you're okay with it on the financial side, i'ma stick this thing out and try to become a senior enlisted leader. And uh, and that's why, you know, I didn't go, uh in that direction, because I wasn't intrinsically motivated to do it. But I do tell people like you got to ask what you want, because it's no wrong. What is a wrong answer? The wrong answer is doing something you don't like doing, but you can go in any direction if it's what's right for you, you don't have to like do it for reasons you don't want to do it.

Nate Scheer:

Absolutely, we're gonna jump into the mental fitness aspect. I'm actually gonna jump off my notes because you just inspired me. Um, so in a previous podcast you had mentioned it's important to have the opposite of you. Yeah, do you have that here and can you explain that a little bit?

CMSgt Woods:

Absolutely so, I think. Um, so, from from one of simons cynic other books, he has other infinite game where he talks about like a worthy rival. So, so a worthy rival in a nutshell is like Someone that you somewhat like, see us like a competitor, but they're good at everything You're not good at. And what he talks about when he goes into the being a worthy rival, what we tend to do is want to compete with them and want to have like, like, like competing priorities and things like that, when what we should do is try to connect With those people. So if anybody knows anything about Ronnie the showgun, chief was a Class, say, when it comes to connecting with people, my personalities Very, uh, people can relate to it. Communication has never been an issue. Um, what I struggle with is uh, uh, sometimes you know, uh, attention to detail. So sometimes uh, just really, uh, really diving deep and having a lot of critical thought when it comes to things. Ministratively, I struggled with those things and for me, what I have learned over the course of my career, when I was a master Sergeant, I didn't seek out those people. That was good with that. But as a chief, I Seek out leaders. That's good with that and I want to learn from them. So I have several leaders, especially at the group Uh, senior enlisted leader level that are really good at things. I'm not, and I'm at a point now in my life Well, I'm comfortable with telling them I Love what you're doing. I'm not good at it and I need your help In those areas because I'm still working on it.

Nate Scheer:

That's good stuff, yeah. The thing that made me think of it, I've seen in a couple different leadership books and whatnot. Usually you have the, the person that comes up with the, the plan, yeah, and the person that gets after it. So let me think of it when you said, you know, inspiring the people and getting after it, and then I think that's a perfect Partnership and teamwork. Or once coming up with hopefully not good idea, fairy type stuff, but good ideas, and then someone to come through and and execute and it's a it's a really unique environment, like as a chief master sergeant, especially a command chief.

CMSgt Woods:

What a lot of people don't know is all the other chiefs on base. I don't outrank them, like we're still the same rank. So so the the balance that's there is you have to lead people that don't work for you because they don't work for you, they work for your commanders. So you got to be able at least the way I see it. Some people may try to say you know, I advised a one-star, you advised a one 06. You're gonna follow my lead. But for me it's all about relationships, it's all about having a respect level and looking at them even though you're not equals. You got to kind of approach it that way and for me is fun because we got 53 chief master sergeants supporting it to me here in the wing and they all, they all great in their own right and I got up build relationships with them all they're all looking good in that red and black. Yes, that was 100%.

Nate Scheer:

So next question we're gonna dive a little deeper into the mental fitness. Yes, did you have conversations about mental health growing up?

CMSgt Woods:

Not at all. Not at all. I was just talking about this. So, growing up in an inner city, a lot of black men actually struggle with mental health because as a kid and it goes even to like it ain't even racial, even just gender roles, like starting with gender roles a little girl falls down, scuffs a leg. You give them hugs and say are you okay? How are you feeling? The little boy does it and it's Get up, stop crying. I don't want to hear what's like. I don't want to hear how you feel about things. Stop acting like a girl. And In the black community that's like magnified times 10. So so for me, I grew up in a community where it was looked down upon to like express yourself and share how you feel and things like that, and that's what I brought to the military. So probably for the first 10 years of my career I will have life happening. What if that's relationship issues? What if that's financial issues? What if that's issues at work? And I was just bottle all of this stuff in and I wouldn't tell anybody, and it wasn't until Later on in my career why. I kind of just hit a real dark spot while I had the axe for help, why? Where I finally realized like expressing myself and sharing those feelings with other people Was therapeutic for me and for my soul and it made me feel so much better as a person. But I Come from I come from an environment where, like just expressing your feelings and Asking for help, saying I need help, somewhat look down upon and that's. That's very unfortunate, because it shouldn't be like that.

Nate Scheer:

Yeah, hopefully with this podcast, We'll just keep having conversations and we're gonna blow this stigma up. So continuation of that one, now that you have a family and you even have an airman in the family. What are some things that you do different to get your family on the right track for mental health?

CMSgt Woods:

so I'll tell you, like being a parent, it's like you, you kind of you kind of try, it's almost like you like in flight emergency and you kind of trying to land a plane, like in flight, like. And you learn it along the way. I Learned like through mental health. Again, going back to what I said about the community, I didn't have a relationship With my son in the beginning where you know, I let him express his thoughts and things like that and and I Kind of felt the impact of that, like when he was a young teenager, he wouldn't go to me when he had stuff on his mind, he would go to his mom because his mom was the one lawways picking them up. How do you feel, are you okay? And things like that. And that's when I started to change like a lot of that with him. But for him it was almost too late. Even as a teenager it was. It was almost too late. But with my girls I started doing that earlier and and and they start to pay dividends and things like that. And even like, because of my experiences, like, like we were very open with, like, like, providing mental health for our children. So when, back when the pandemic first hit. My daughter, who was nine years old at the time, is a social butterfly and I'm leaving for Korea, her brother's leaving for the Air Force. She's stuck at home doing home school and can't leave the house and she's mentally going through a lot. And my wife linked her up with a military family and life consultant. And it was only virtual, she couldn't go in and go see him, but she connected her with a military family and life consultant. When I tell you like that did wonders for my baby, like I can't put into words, like what it did for my child, like to be able to express her thoughts to someone else and help her get over the hump, but something she didn't understand, think none of us understood it back in 2020. What was going on with the world? But a lot was going on with her, even with the pandemic and, like you know, her big brother and her dad, like leaving the house and stuff like that I mean worked wonders to the point where we tried to get it transferred over here when we came to Japan, but we couldn't get it transferred. You know they have rules and things like that, but we we still like keep it open, like for those things, like with our children.

Nate Scheer:

That's. That's good, that she was able to work through that and you gave her resources. I think that's probably the one. The one biggest thing is knowing that things are available and not feel like you're stuck. So you kind of touched on previous and Current. So to kind of wrap that up, what's your perspective on mental health? How does it differ from when you grew up to now?

CMSgt Woods:

It's night and day one I didn't even know existed, like as a child, like I didn't know you can go to someone that's Like medically, a clinical psychiatrist or a social worker and be able to, like express your thoughts and express your feelings. That that wasn't, that wasn't something I knew existed. And now I Know it exists and I believe so much in it, like like I really do Daily. That's what I love about this podcast is we fighting the same fight daily. I'm trying to Kill the stigma about that. For career reasons me being a defender we didn't want to go talk to mental health because we thought they were gonna take our weapon away. And you don't want your weapon taken away and we think it's going to affect our careers. And it's not like I Go to mental health, I go ask for help. I'm about to go to the number of Air Force level as a command chief. It doesn't affect your career, it only enhances your career. Hmm, I Pretty regularly go see a chaplain, even when I don't just like. It's a very lonely world as a command chief at times and you just need to be able just to just talk and just just be able to express your feelings and and do those things and and kind of go from there and and we got to continue to chip away at it because this it's long as it's longest. People can see that one story out of the that that affected someone career they will leech on out when it not the hundred or hundreds of times that it's positively affected someone professionally and personally.

Nate Scheer:

Absolutely so. I want to balance a little bit between Mental fitness and some personal stories, because I like the idea of interweaving Personal and mental health, because that's really what it should be right? We, we were a person and we live lives and we also have mental fitness that we need to to get after and things like that. So one question I have I'm kind of hesitant on this one because of the whole work-life balance and I don't really love the, the term right, but I had heard you turn your work phone off when you get home. Is that still true? Absolutely.

CMSgt Woods:

Absolutely so. So my wife, we have a contract and and I don't have to come home at a certain time, but when I'm home, I'm home. Now, now, like I'm on call as a command chief, like I'm basically on call, I'm almost like a first sergeant, so I have to have my phone on just in case something Hragically happens. So I got, like I got these rules on my phone to where, like, like the text messages from certain people, the calls from certain people, like Brigadier General Eggman, I gotta be on call for him at all times. So so I don't turn it off off, but like a lot of the I like to call chaff that I get as a command chief all of us important, don't get me wrong, but a lot of that stuff can typically be handled in the morning. So I do that. But I'm also very transparent with the people that I work with so they understand, like, if it's something significant, they have other ways to be able to do that. But that's my contract with my wife. I can stay in the office to 9 pm If that's what duty calls, but when I come home, I'm home, I'm home, I don't. I try not to bring leftovers home, like to my family I try to. When I come home, I try to just be there for them and not be there for them but my mom and somewhere, and things like that, and that's a lot easier said than done. Like it's it's. I'm not gonna sit here and act like I figured it out. I haven't. I'm still on this journey, trying to figure those things out, like I'm learning each and every day, and sometimes I have good moments, sometimes I have bad moments, but I'm very aware of it. That it that I need to do better at it.

Nate Scheer:

And that's one reason I absolutely love the term mental fitness when I came across it because it's an ongoing process, ongoing Fitness. You go to the gym every day. You make those small increments you get after a little every day. You know you're not gonna go to the gym one day and have some six-pack and so it's interesting we have this completely different view on on mental health. It's like go over there one time You're done. It doesn't make any sense, it's I go even a step further with the fitness.

CMSgt Woods:

Like you have your good and bad moments, like you being the best shape of your life and sometimes you just kind of let yourself go for what? For whatever reason, it's the same thing, hmm. Like you're gonna be doing really good with it, you're gonna be working really hard at you're gonna be in great shape, but every now and then you're gonna look at the pizza and the cookies and you can be like you know what. I ain't going to jump for a couple weeks. I'm gonna eat whatever I want and it's a constant. It's a constant journey.

Nate Scheer:

Thanksgiving that's a tough one. Got to take a break around then. So next question why is mental health important to you personally?

CMSgt Woods:

So for me it's very important. So so we by start cooking with fish oil. So I'm about to, I'm about to tell a story about how, how mental health kind of kind of changed my life. So I'm a freshly retrained out of security forces into battle management control. About management control is a very technically challenging career field and I'm a tech sergeant, I'm on a deployment to LUD. I'm already like challenged by that. I'm struggling adjusting to a new career field. Me and my wife is having marital issues, like significant marital issues. I just got a call that my mom has stage 4 cancer. I got to go on emergency leave to go see her and I didn't know at the time that I had lost like 15 pounds. So I had lost like 15 pounds and then my supervisor like came by my, my house I'm not my house my dorm room at LUD and was like I'm gonna go see her. I was in the room at LUD and was like bro, like you need to go talk to somebody. And again I gave y'all, I gave you a little bit snippet of like, like where the core of me, like coming from you know, the community, where I just I just didn't get like those reps in with, like expressing myself. I was always, you know, you hold it in, but I was getting to a breaking point, like you know. I was getting to a point where I had to go talk to somebody. So I finally went to go talk to a chaplain and I was expressing like all my thoughts to them because I had a lot of stuff going on in my mind. I was in a really dark place, really dark place. And that first time I went to go talk to the chaplain I felt so good, like after the fact and and and the chaplain's, like why you ain't never come talk to us. I'm, like I'm a extremely private person. He was like then, I'm the perfect person to talk to 100% because I can't tell nobody what you're talking about, like, if you're private, this is the perfect place to come. And the light bulb kind of came on at that moment. I was like man, what the hell have I been waiting on my whole life, you know? And then uh, so it's for me. I started with the chaplain core and then it went to more to like, like mental health specialists, um, n-flags I've dealt with n-flags, uh, quite a bit uh in my life as well. And then, uh, I also just surround myself with, with good, uh, people that's gonna always be honest with me and be there, be, be willing to be there and listen and listen and things like that, because sometimes it's not like clinically, like diagnosis that you need. It's not that all the time. Sometimes it's just gotta talk to somebody. Sometimes it's just really that simple, big spectrum right, not everything is super dire.

Nate Scheer:

Sometimes you just need to get some stuff off your chest. So a question I'd like to ask you're very confident, big personality, absolutely. You kind of touched on your background, so can you walk us through a little bit of for me? I've noticed in life a lot of things, if not almost everything. It's about balance. So how do you balance being confident versus humility?

CMSgt Woods:

Man. So I've struggled with this one I have because my wife my wife would tell me all the time, like your ego can get in the way sometimes, but also your ego is why you are where you at right now is it's your ego and the confidence and the humility. I have struggled with that balance at times and it's a very thin line. It's a very thin line between having humility and being like a very confident person, because most people don't wanna follow someone that doesn't have confidence and decisive, but they don't wanna follow one that's full of themselves neither. So I am very aware that I love me, some me. I'm very aware, I'm self aware of that, and this is through doing surveys on myself and doing surveys with the people that I work with. So for me, I'm just very aware of it and I'm just very mindful of it, even like the things that I do on social media, like I've learned through trial and error that I can't make it about me all the time, cause I have a like. I have a kind of like a natural tendency to do that sometimes and I won't make it about me, I make it about other people. I'm always showing gratitude, always showing humility, but I'm still on that journey, like beyond. I'm totally transparent with people. I struggle with that all the time. I surround myself with people that reminds me of that. My wife will remind me if I start to get full of myself. She'll remind me that I need to show a little bit more humility. One of my mentors actually sat me down when I was a chief master sergeant and told me I was full of myself. It was probably one of the best conversations I had in my career. I probably wouldn't have been a command chief. If he wanna, if he wanna, sat me down and talk to me about humility.

Nate Scheer:

Did you go defensive first, or did you I?

CMSgt Woods:

I didn't go defensive because he was. I was a squadron chief at the time, he was a group as he. It was the most important conversation of my career that I had. And he, he sat me down and he told me and I wasn't defensive, I was kinda soaking it in and then I went home and I talked to my wife about it and she was very honest with me. She's just like yeah, you've been pretty much prick Like the last, like ever since you sold on a chief. Like it's all about you, it's all about you and you're never wrong. And just he's like go look at your social media, go look at the things that you're doing around the base. Like I know you. She told me that she know me and she knew that wasn't the type of person that I wanted to be. So I had to do some soul searching, some self reflection and I had to make some mouth modifications. It's not a whole lot. Like I tell you, it's a thin line between confidence and humility. It's a very thin line and you gotta just know how to pick your spots. Again, the people that you're actually want a confident leader.

Nate Scheer:

Absolutely. I think the most important part of that is you were able to receive. I think a lot of times we give feedback. It's difficult, it's awkward, it's whatever it may be, but if the heart's not open, that feedback's flying right back. So it's good that you were able to stop and actually absorb, or you would have just the ability to take in constructive criticism.

CMSgt Woods:

I got that a lot from my battle management controller part of my career, because after every mission they do a debrief and they tell you like a thousand things you did wrong. So after doing that for nine years I used to hate it in the beginning because you just really just like get down on yourself and stuff like that. But when I did that for nine years it really helped me with the ability to sub constructive criticism and not take it personally.

Nate Scheer:

Absolutely so I wanna get into some actionable things. What is something that someone that's listening right now to go home today, this week and get after? What are some habits you personally take care of your mental fitness Again.

CMSgt Woods:

I think. So I have a rotating appointment with the chaplain corps, so what I needed, or not, just so I would say try to try to instill, like, the exercise of mental health in your life, like, try to just instill that in your life, and that's what I do to be able to do that. So try to do that. Surround yourself with good people that know who, you are willing to tell you the truth, whether you wanna hear it or not, and people that you can count on, you can go to and just express yourself. So you wanna be willing to do that and have that in your life. And those are the two things that I will tell anyone. Just start there and then, depending on what you like, what you don't like, you can kinda go from there.

Nate Scheer:

Kinda tailor from there. I think it's important to mention on the last one, just backing up one kinda the balance between confidence and humility. I think one of the common things we hear is walk in the talk or getting after it. So gotta give a shout out to the showgun chief for managing his own Facebook page. I wrote I definitely thought it was the exact and I gotta reply, and as soon as I saw the 100 on there, it was proven. So shout out for running your own social media. I think if you're able to walk the talk and get after it, that's one of the first steps in humility bringing yourself down to run it correctly.

CMSgt Woods:

So it's very important for me that people get the real me and I don't know if it's gonna be easy or not at the next level. I mean I feel like I could do it here. I can do it anywhere, because this is a really busy job. But I feel like people wanna know what you have to say, like not the people that work for you, and I take a lot of pride in that. Like I don't do grammar checks or any of the posts, I'm okay with that. Like, what I get from a lot of people is they like that it's me and they like that it's real and I am who I am. I like to talk to the airman and that page. It's been cool what's happened on there, because actually probably about 70% of the people that's on that page is not from Kadeena, they're from like all over the Air Force Cause I don't just try to speak to the show guns, I try to speak to anyone that's willing to listen.

Nate Scheer:

Absolutely, absolutely. So I got a question. I wanna play into your quote and your slogan. So one of the things you keep on your coin in different places is keeping it real. But I wanna know the other side. Is there a time, maybe personal story, or is there times that keeping it real can go too far?

CMSgt Woods:

Yeah. So you gotta have some awareness, you gotta be able I always tell people all the time you gotta know how to read the room. So you gotta be able to know how to read the room. Like you can't be 100% like all the time, like sometimes you gotta move with a little finesse, sometimes you gotta have some recognition of the greater good, like that that's gonna come from something and be able to understand that. And I've had several instances in my career where I haven't been able to be 100% myself. Like the inherent role of a senior enlisted advisor is to advise a commander on things they may not wanna hear, they may wanna go in a direction you wanna go in. They may not, you might not agree with it, but you gotta walk out of that room and you gotta be with them. As long as it's not immoral, ethical, illegal, you gotta be with them. And me going in and selling something on that I just advised against is that's technically like not keeping it real right. But you have to do what you gotta do for the greater good and you gotta be a good teammate. You gotta be a good leader. You gotta understand that you advise like commanders decide. A lot of senior enlisted leaders struggle with that. I don't cause. I know my role. I know my role is to give the voice of the people, whether commanders wanna hear it or not, and that's a data point in the calculus that they use to make decisions. Not the only one, but a data point. So just yeah, read the room. Understand when to do it, understand when not to do it. For me, I feel like for the most part, I'm gonna keep it 100, but I'll be lying to everyone if I say like I'm like that all the time. I'm not, I'm not.

Nate Scheer:

yes, chief can all the time. Everything's about balance, I think Right. So I wanna summarize some of the main points. So part of that is having the conversation about mental fitness. We touched on that growing up both of us and I think you know, back in up 10, 20 years. It just was not something that was allowed to be talked about and we just need to continue to have this conversation. The next point was really about balance, and then I think the last point was really about reoccurring. You know, the mental fitness we talk about. Make that appointment. If you need it, good. If not, you know, maybe you can press on, but be intentional, be about it and make sure it's there. I'd like to put a plug out there. If you have a story you'd like to share or wanna sit down and discuss mental fitness in the future, anyone out there please reach out to me and chief really wanna thank you. I'd like to give you some last words of wisdom. What's the parting wisdom you got for us?

CMSgt Woods:

I just wanna say thanks for having me on. I really do appreciate it. I was really enjoying this. I can't believe that was an hour cause I felt like 15 minutes, but that goes to show like like we both was really enjoying each other's company and kinda doing that. I always liked that stress, like mental fitness and trying to kill the stigma of it. And again, if you feel you need to like go get help, like please, like I highly encourage you and then also say, just try it out If you don't like it. You know, amen to each his own, but sometimes you just gotta do it. Cause, like I told the story when I was deployed, I actually really liked it. Once I tried. I had never gave it a chance. Like give it a chance and be able to do that. And just just advice for me like I tell everyone, like, be yourself. The hardest thing in the world is to be something you not. The easiest thing in the world is to be yourself. Focus on the things you can control. That's your attitude, that's your effort, and don't focus on things you don't control. That's the opinions, thoughts of other human beings, your environment when adversity hits your life, the way people think about you Don't focus on that and always remember, whatever you're doing, whether you're in a military, whether you're an industry, whether you're involved with sports and things like that your legacy is not gonna be defined by what you accomplish. Your legacy is gonna be defined by the way those people that you work with, the way you make them feel. That's what's gonna define your legacy. Always remember that. Always understand that you gonna have peaks and valleys and again, I sincerely appreciate the time. This is awesome and I can't wait to hear this and the other times that y'all was on, and thank you again for your time, sir.

Nate Scheer:

Thank you much, Chief. Thanks for listening to Mind Matters If it's on your mind, it matters and thanks for squeezing us in on a super short notice. Chief leaves on Thursday and I'm leaving for Korea, so I can't believe it all lined up, but I'm glad that it did. And, as always, remember if you ever need help, please get help from a wingman military one-sorcer mental health. There's also the new USA suicide hotline at nine, eight, eight, but please reach out and get some help. Have a good one, Love you.

Breaking Stigma on Mental Fitness
Lessons Learned
Leadership Challenges
Motivation, Superpowers, and Mental Fitness
Breaking the Stigma
Mental Health in Careers
Awareness, Humility, and Mental Fitness
Authenticity, Impact and Embracing Lasting