FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- As an Army spouse of 11 years, Leslie Glad has been in situations that required her to adapt to circumstances quickly, without letting them affect her family adversely. Twice during her husband's career, Glad found herself alone with her two children within weeks after arriving at a new duty station because her husband was ordered to deploy.

Glad said she draws on these experiences in her work as the Fort Jackson family readiness support assistant, which includes empowering family members to help themselves when life in the Army gets rough. The Army now provides new tools to family members to help them with these challenges.

In January, the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program started reaching out to family members. Comprehensive Soldier Fitness aims to strengthen a person's resilience so he or she will be able to better deal with adversity.

The first step in making the program available to family members was the modification of the Global Assessment Tool. The GAT is a self-assessment survey that provides a baseline in four dimensions of strength: social, emotional, family and spiritual.

Dana Whitis, subject matter expert for the family component of Comprehensive Soldier Fitness, said that although the family GAT is slightly different from the one that Soldiers take, the survey fulfills the same function.

"The family GAT is talking to the family members, specifically, so the (Soldier-centric) language is removed," Whitis said. "But as far as measuring the strengths ... that isn't changed."

After completing the confidential survey, family members will be able to take online self-development modules, which will improve their knowledge and skill set in the four dimensions of strength.

Currently, four modules per dimension have been developed, but more will be added as the program grows, Whitis said. The GAT is voluntary for family members. To date, more than 1,300 family members Army-wide have completed the survey.

In addition to these online tools, family members will also be able to receive classes in Comprehensive Soldier Fitness. At least two Army Community Service employees per installation will be educated as master resilience trainers.

Carla Atkinson, director of the Fort Jackson ACS, said she is excited about the program becoming available to family members and sees her organization as a perfect fit to facilitate those skills.

"ACS has always been in the resiliency business," Atkinson said. "We're not about doing things for families, we're about teaching them to be resilient and to be able to handle whatever comes at them and to bounce back from adversity."

Atkinson was part of a focus group of family members and ACS employees who attended the MRT course at the University of Pennsylvania in November.

"It was absolutely the best training I have ever had in the Army, bar none," she said. "It just really energized me and got me thinking about resilience."

She said she her long-term plans are to offer ACS classes about Comprehensive Soldier Fitness to family members. She also said she hopes that the positive psychology on which the concept is based can permeate all of ACS's programs. She said she bases that expectation on her experience that resilience is teachable.

"Before I went (to UPenn), I thought, 'Positive thinking' Either you're positive or you're not, end of subject,'" she said. "Well, it's not that way. Negative people can learn to think in a positive way."

Whitis said that one of the benefits of the program is that those positive thinking skills are not limited to the family member's time with the Army.

"These are lifelong skills. You can use them for the rest of your life - with the Army or not," she said.

Soldiers are required to have take the GAT by May 31. Whitis and Atkinson agree that the fact that the GAT and the online modules are available to Soldiers and their families adds to the benefits of the program.

"The beautiful thing about this is that this is going to create a common language between you and your Soldier," Whitis said.

Glad said she is looking forward to using Comprehensive Soldier Fitness, both personally and professionally.

"This is a great tool for me to push to family members, because it is a program that helps families help themselves and their dependents to become stronger and to become more knowledgeable and to be able to, in the end, be a stronger family as a whole," she said. "I think it will evolve into a really great program once people start to know more about it and know what the program is all about."

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program is the Army's way to address more than a Soldier's physical well-being, but his or her mental well-being. This article is the second in a series, addressing how the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program benefits Soldiers, families, civilians and the Army as a whole.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16