USF-I commander tours Basra resiliency campus
August 22, 2010
- Gen. Raymond Odierno toured the soon-to-open USD-S resiliency campus during his final visit to Basra as USF-I commanding general
- The resiliency campus has separate areas for each pillar of Soldier fitness.
- The site is modeled after the campus 1st Infantry Division is constructing at Fort Riley, Kansas.
COB BASRA, Iraq - The soon-to-open resiliency campus at Contingency Operating Base Basra hosted Gen. Ray Odierno, United States Forces-Iraq commander, during his visit to the base Aug. 18.
The resiliency campus brings all components of resiliency - emotional, spiritual, mental, family support and physical - under one roof in a setting that allows Soldiers to approach things in their own way and at their own pace.
"I think some people get scared away from groups, so they want someone to develop something for them so they can improve, and you can find all of that here," Odierno said.
To accomplish this, the set of buildings incorporates everything from a gym and nutritional counselors to mental health professionals and computers for making Internet-based video calls to family.
The chaplain's office also plays a role, but it is one of open invitation to explore individual faith with an atmosphere allowing Soldiers as much interaction with chaplains and other Soldiers as they wish. This is accomplished with a small library of books covering various religions - from Buddhism to Wiccan - and a room for meditation.
"It is different from a chaplain in the sense that this is an unobtrusive environment," said Chaplain (Maj.) Gary Fisher, 1st Infantry Division deputy division chaplain from Abilene, Kan. "It's an opportunity for them to come and do research, to learn, to meditate, to grow, to ask questions, to enter into debate, to be able to just explore their own personal journey, explore their own personal faith and their faith walk."
The campus allows a 'whole-person' approach to the stresses Soldiers face. When someone is suffering in one area, other parts of their life and health can impact their ability to cope. The holistic approach makes it possible, for instance, for Soldiers struggling with physical fitness to come seeking help with their workout or diet, and find help for other situations they might not have thought were even impacting their physical fitness.
Not surprisingly, physical condition can have dramatic consequences for a person's ability to deal with other stresses.
"The overall goal is to ensure that Soldiers are not only physically fit, but emotionally and spiritually fit - with family and socially," said Sgt. Maj. Bryan Barren, 1st Inf. Div. Surgeon Cell, who has overseen the creation of the gym portion of the campus.
"It's a place for a Soldier to come and feel like any of their needs can be taken care of," Barren, a Baltimore native, said.
Maj. Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, United States Division-South and 1st Inf. Div. commander, said all of the gym equipment had been re-purposed from facilities closing down as part of the drawdown of forces in Iraq, eliminating the need to purchase new equipment.
He also noted, in response to Odierno's comment that it was important to carry the resiliency efforts back home with units when they leave theater, the campus here is actually modeled after one at Fort Reilly, home of the 1st Inf. Div.
Odierno's response to the campus was positive, and he inquired about the different facilities from the officers and noncommissioned officers who provided him the tour, remarking on the parts he was particularly impressed with.
"I've always had a lot of respect for the 1st Infantry Division, specifically the current leadership," Odierno said. "I have a lot of confidence in your abilities, but more importantly, about, not only what you do here, but how you take care of your Soldiers, and it's been an honor to work with you, all of you."