Soldiers, spouses participate in STRONG project on Fort Drum
June 13, 2013
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- The Army is focused on building and maintaining strong Soldiers; however, a Soldier is only as strong as his or her Family or support system.
Several Fort Drum Soldiers and spouses are helping Army leadership learn about the levels of resilience across the force by participating in a study program.
The first iteration of the Schofield Barracks Training and Research on Neurobehavioral Growth, known as the "STRONG" project, ended late last month, but those involved in the program are already looking forward to the second session, which will take place this summer.
As participants in the study, volunteers may be invited to attend an eight-week mindfulness-based training program. Before starting the program, spouses are invited to participate in computer testing with Dr. Amishi P. Jha, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Miami, and her team. They will ask the participants attending the study to come back again for testing within one week of completing the mindfulness-based training program.
This project involves computer-based experiments and brainwave recording to investigate if and how resilience training may improve the ways in which the brain functions, to include attention span, situational awareness of their immediate surroundings, and ability to manage and recover from stress, according to Jha.
"We are studying the different effects stress has on different volunteers' minds," she said. "The more people we are able to study, the better knowledge base we will have for the future of our program, and the more help we will be able to provide (others)."
The computer-testing sessions involve tasks on a computer, similar to simple video games. These tasks are designed to measure specific aspects of concentration, vigilance, memory, distractibility and emotional response. In addition to asking participants to complete these tasks, spouses will complete several self-report surveys.
The idea to offer the training was suggested by Brig. Gen. Walter E. Piatt, 10th Mountain Division (LI) deputy commander-support. Piatt attended similar training while serving as a brigade commander in Hawaii.
The program was further supported when Jha visited Fort Drum during the Family Readiness Group Symposium in February. During her presentation, Jha explained to military leaders, family readiness group leaders and advisers, and family readiness support assistants the importance and benefits of resilience and mindfulness.
"We had a very good turnout for the survey," Jha noted. "The spouses were very interested in getting to see how their own minds worked during the different exercises."
Soldiers who participated in the training will be tested again at a later date to see how much impact it had on the different aspects of the course. This continuation of the project aims to track the impact of predeployment resilience training over the deployment cycle.
"When we come back for our summer study, we are hoping to have a lot of new spouses show up and let us expand our database. This will help with our growing research, and that will help us better understand how we can improve our overall program," Jha said. "With the data we gathered this past month, we will be studying each individual test to see how the different participants did."
The STRONG Spouse project is a free program open to military spouses ages 18-55 whose Soldier is deployable and who have been married during a previous deployment.
For more information on the STRONG project, visit http://www.amishi.com/lab/strong/. To sign up for the summer study program, contact Maj. Brian Ducote at firstname.lastname@example.org.