YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea: “Suck it up, rub dirt on it and drive-on works sometimes,” said Sgt. 1st Class Eric Tobin, “I am a big fan of that. But sometimes it’s not enough.”
Tobin, an instructor with an Army mobile training team, is here as part of a team teaching the first Master Resilience Trainer course in Korea.
The Master Resilience Training course is one part of the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program, which Gen. George W. Casey Jr. said is designed to build a Soldier’s mental toughness to the same level as physical toughness.
“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,” said Casey in a recent address. “Our goal through Comprehensive Soldier Fitness is to ensure all Soldiers have the skills to grow and succeed.”
Seventy-two Soldiers and civilians from across the peninsula participated in the 10-day training course designed to teach a variety of communication and coping skills to senior noncommissioned officers and officers identified by their command to be the subject matter experts for resilience training in their units.
Master Resilience Training is an adaptation for the Army of the Positive Psychology Program at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. A main premise of the training is to teach people how to identify internal thoughts and the link to feelings and behaviors.
The Army program is divided into three phases – preparation, sustainment and enhancement. The first eight days are dedicated to teaching coping skills to participants so they can pass those skills to Soldiers in their units. The final two days are used to teach how to apply the skills during pre- and post-deployment training, and goal setting and energy management.
“We are an Army that has been at war for almost a decade and are constantly seeking to improve all dimensions of a Soldier’s well-being,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Sharon M. Mullens, a signal information officer for Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program. “It’s not just a focus on the Soldier’s physical aspect. Master Resilience Training seeks to enhance the social, family, emotional and spiritual dimensions.”
All the skills are teachable and there is science to support the concept, said Bob Szybist, the civilian primary instructor for the training team. Szybist received his graduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and worked with Psychologists Martin Seligman and Karen Reivich, leaders of the program at UPENN.
“These are skills anyone can develop,” said Szybist. “The program goes beyond Soldiers. It reaches spouses and families.”
Students were enthusiastic during the training, recognizing it as another tool for leaders to connect with Soldiers who are experiencing multiple stressors in their lives. MRT helps leaders recognize issues in Soldiers and offers new ways to deal with those issues in a healthy way.
“As an Army, we are moving too fast. This training is a way to pump the brakes and get control of our tempo,” said Master Sgt. Michael Tribble, an operations sergeant major from Camp Red Cloud. “I thought at first this training was for young Soldiers but that’s not it at all. It’s for leaders to develop new ideas and fresh ways to communicate.”
“How can I sign up for this course; absolutely perfect,” said Gen. Walter L. Sharp, commander of United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command and U.S. Forces Korea, as he visited with students during training, adding that the population of junior Soldiers in Korea is high. “That means you work doubly hard as a leader. These skills will help you be that leader.”
Resilience training has recently been added to the Army’s list of Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills and the training will be incorporated into all levels of the officer and noncommissioned officer education systems. The training should be viewed as a career event, like marksmanship, said Tobin.
The 2nd Infantry Division has embraced the training having more than 2,200 Soldiers already trained in resiliency. Staff Sgt. James R. Parham, an MRT instructor assigned to the 2nd ID, went to the initial training at UPENN in March and immediately began implementing the training program for the division.
“Our goal is to have 90 percent of the force trained by June 1, 2011,” said Parham. “Our leadership embraces this training and we will easily reach this goal.”
Korea is the third outing for the resiliency mobile training team. They recently completed training events at Fort Meade, Md., and Grafenwoehr, Germany. They are scheduled to complete training at several posts in the United States during the next year.
“At the end of this training, students will have the knowledge to enhance resiliency and effectiveness as an individual, optimize performance, increase leadership skills, goal setting and mental toughness,” said Mullens. “Overall, students are learning vital skills that enhance resiliency and develop effectiveness as a leader.”