Army developing master resiliency training

By on Friday, August 7th, 2009

WASHINGTON: The Army has been working with the University of Pennsylvania to develop master resiliency training that will soon be taught to Soldiers, family members and Army civilians.

The resiliency training is part of Comprehensive Soldier Fitness, which focuses on the five dimensions of strength: emotional, social, spiritual, family and physical.

“As people develop their holistic fitness strength, they develop psychological resilience to not only bounce back, but to thrive under challenging conditions,” said Brig. Gen. Rhonda Cornum, CSF director.

“We’ve been working for about the last year on Comprehensive Soldier Fitness,” said Gen. George W. Casey Jr., chief of staff of the Army. “It’s designed to bring mental fitness up to the same level that we give to physical fitness. In this era of persistent conflict, we’ve found that the vast majority of Soldiers deploying have a positive growth experience because they’re exposed to something very difficult and they succeed. Our goal through Comprehensive Soldier Fitness is to ensure all Soldiers have the skills to grow and succeed.”

Master resiliency training is being adapted from the Positive Psychology Program at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. UPENN instructs teachers (middle and high school) on how to impart resiliency skills to their students during the school year. More than a dozen scientific studies have shown positive results in students whose teachers have been trained in this program – including better grades, less dropouts and less behavioral issues.

Potential master resiliency trainers participated in an informational session in May. At this session 32 Soldiers and Army civilians received the civilian version of the UPENN course. In June and July a smaller focus group attended the course in an effort to tailor the current curriculum for Army use. Another training pilot program is scheduled for Aug. 10-19 at the school.

“The training is informative and motivational,” said Dana Whitis, an Army employee who attended the five-day course.

“Resilience training encourages a person to take a mental note of their past behavior and present situation and promotes alternative ways to view the occurrence,” explained Whitis, who works for the Family, Morale Welfare and Recreation Command. She went on to say that resiliency training will eventually be offered to Army family members.

“It will augment existing Army family program structure and programs,” Whitis said. “I look forward to family members receiving resilience training.”

Command Sgt. Maj. Teresa King, who is stationed at Fort Jackson, S.C., said the training has equipped her “to be more resolute in bouncing back from adversities and instead of using a negative or pessimistic approach, I now view what I decide are negative situations as an opportunity for growth, through positive thinking.”

King said she is “happier” since the training and feels she has a better understanding of her peers, Soldiers, friends and family members.

The Army is now incorporating practices learned from the UPENN program as the building of MRT continues.

MRT will operate as a “train-the-trainer” program, and aims to turn participants into fitness experts able to train others and strengthen the force as a whole. MRT will eventually be taught during basic combat training, at officer schools, and throughout all levels of the Army, Cornum said.

In the first five days of the MRT course, students learn the basic tenants of resiliency training. The remaining days focus on how to teach the material.

Sgt. Maj. James Whitfield, who attended the five-day seminar at UPenn, said the “train-the-trainer” program covers subjects such as avoiding thinking traps, building resiliency and surveying individuals’ strong points and “not-so-strong points.”

The course overview received great reviews from the participants who said it has potential to be beneficial to the leader-Soldier bond. The Army will continue to adapt the program to make it more relevant for Soldiers as the curriculum-development continues, officials said.

Phase two of the program calls for establishing an MRT school to train leaders (squad leaders, platoon sergeants, etc.) on how to impart resiliency skills through daily education and training. Phase three will allow for voluntary participation by family members and Army civilians.

“The Army is committed to a true prevention model aimed at the entire force, not only Soldiers and civilians in the throes of a crisis,” said Lt. Gen. James D. Thurman, deputy chief of staff, G-3/5/7.

CSF recognizes the absolute necessity of a comprehensive, coordinated effort to enhance the fitness and resiliency of our Army, particularly important during this era of persistent conflict and most importantly into the foreseeable future. Ultimately, Soldier fitness in the comprehensive sense is, and has always been, the business of leaders.

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