FORT JACKSON, S.C. (April 8, 2010) -- The Army's Master Resilience Training Course facility opened Monday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The school is one of the elements of the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program, which aims to strengthen Soldiers' emotional, social, family, spiritual and physical strength.

The first class, comprising new Advanced Individual Training platoon sergeants, started this week. During its first year in operation, the school will graduate about 750 students as master resilience trainers. Subsequently, 1,800 students from across the Army will attend the 10-day course each year.

"It's quite an honor to have the Army select Fort Jackson for this tremendous school," said Col. Kevin Shwedo, Fort Jackson's deputy commander. "It's the Army's premiere school to build resiliency in its leaders."

Fort Jackson was selected to be the home of the course in December, and the school is housed in a newly renovated former barracks building.

"In terms of dollars spent to renovate this facility, about $2.7 million, this is not a large military construction project," said Maj. Gen. Todd Semonite, commander of the South Atlantic Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "Despite the modest price tag, the Corps of Engineers and I have personally taken an intense interest in this project, because it is so important to our Soldiers and their families, to our overall Army readiness."

Brig. Gen. Rhonda Cornum, director of Comprehensive Soldier Fitness, said the school is an important step in enhancing the overall strength of the Army.

"Not everyone joins our great Army with the same set of skills in communication or in decision making or in judgment. Just as we have historically ... given (Soldiers) the opportunity to realize their potential in physical skills and in technological skills, what the Master Resilience Training Course will do is help us give them the tools to develop themselves psychologically as well," said Cornum.

The resilience training offered at the school is based on the positive psychology program of the University of Pennsylvania. Martin Seligman, who is director of the Positive Psychology Center and a psychology professor at UPenn, said that the objective of the training is not only to enable people to bounce back from a traumatic event, but to ultimately grow from the experience.

"Some people collapse under adversity," said Seligman, who has a doctorate in psychology. "The great majority are resilient. A month after the adversity, they're back where they were. And, most importantly, a very large number of human beings ... grow."

"A year later, they're physically and psychologically stronger than they started with."

Cornum shared a similar sentiment.

"We will give (Soldiers) the tools to actually thrive in the good days, to thrive more fully, and to be able to gain wisdom and judgment from the things that they face, not just depression, anxiety and helplessness," she said.

She said that noncommissioned officers, who are one of the target audience groups for the course, will especially benefit from the training.

"Noncommissioned officers are already the backbone of the Army," she said. "Noncommissioned officers and junior leaders already shoulder huge responsibilities. They're responsible for themselves and their subordinates and the families of themselves and their subordinates. And they're responsible to the commander for accomplishing the mission. And, really, what the Master Resilience Training Course will give these great young Soldiers is a preventive set of tools with which to accomplish that ... mission."

One of those NCOs is Sgt. 1st Class Jose Sixtos, lead instructor for the pre-command course at Victory University. Sixtos participated in the MRT pilot program at UPenn and is now an MRT trainer.

"Had I had the training (before deploying), I think it would have been easier for me to cope with some of the things that came with deployment," said Sixtos, who has deployed three times, twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan. "I deployed shortly after I came in the Army, so I wasn't really mentally prepared like I should have been. ... It probably would have made me a stronger person a lot quicker instead of having to go through those hard life lessons that I had to learn all by myself."

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