Staff Sgt. Marcus Gurule teaches Soldiers how to handle a .50-caliber machine gun Sept. 1 at Patton Range. He's the master resilience trainer for C Company, 2nd Battalion, 54th Infantry Regiment.

FORT BENNING, Ga. -- Master resilience trainers are a growing presence on Sand Hill.

In the past year, more than 1,300 Soldiers, including about 20 drill sergeants from Fort Benning, have taken the Master Resilience Training course, part of the Army's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program.

Modeled after the University of Pennsylvania's "Penn Resilience Program," the 10-day course is designed to equip Soldiers with the skills needed to better manage traumatic events - from money and relationship problems to major accidents and combat horrors - and teach others in their units to do the same.

Staff Sgt. Marcus Gurule of C Company, 2nd Battalion, 54th Infantry Regiment, was among the first drill sergeants from the 192nd Infantry Brigade to attend an MRT session at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. He completed the course last November.

"I was picked because I am the fitness subject matter expert for my company," he said. "I learned about basic problem solving to get through tough times, and how to teach young Soldiers to see past the 'suck' factor in the present. Kids get too wrapped around how bad it is 'right now.'"

The Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program focuses on the five dimensions of strength: emotional, social, spiritual, family and physical. MRT is aimed at building mental toughness.

As the unit master resilience trainer, Gurule uses different exercises at the beginning of each cycle to introduce the concepts to basic training Soldiers, he said. Since the MRT program is still relatively new, the Army hasn't created a program of instruction yet, but two hours of resilience coaching is required in the "Red Phase" of training.

"I personally try to point out the simplicity in each training event. It's action-thought-consequence," he said. "I explain that if they really think about it - whatever the event is - it's nothing too hard or complicated. It's not that bad. People do this job every day and are successful, and they can be, too."

Gurule said drill sergeants and NCOs should always highlight the techniques Soldiers need to overcome whatever adversity they might face - throughout a cycle, he often discusses other examples where resilience can apply in a practical manner. That guidance must continue even after basic, he said.

"Operational units need to have as many NCOs as possible trained in this," he said.

Gurule said he believes MRT will produce long-term benefits for the Army and could ultimately lower cases of post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq.

"If you accept the things you can't change, then you won't suffer mentally from them later," he said. "Maybe we can make a more mentally aware Soldier, aware of his or her capabilities. Soldiers may be able to improve how they deal with the hardships and realities of combat because they can think through it."

Gen George W. Casey Jr., the Army chief of staff, has set a goal of having one MRT-qualified Soldier per battalion and another for each brigade headquarters. That would yield more than 5,000 Soldiers Army-wide.

Along with the Philadelphia venue, the MRT course also is taught to drill sergeants at "Victory University" on Fort Jackson, S.C. In July, the Army debuted a nine-member mobile training team that will bring the curriculum to Soldiers at posts around the world.

Brig. Gen. Rhonda Cornum, the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program director, said MRT course feedback has been positive.

"By about day four, you have almost universally seen the turnaround from skeptical to responses like, 'Why didn't the Army do this 10 years ago'' or 'If I had had this training 10 years ago, I'd still be married,'" she said. "There is no question, there is education and confidence that is built as the course goes on."

(Editor's note: Information from the Army News Service contributed to this report.)

Page last updated Fri September 3rd, 2010 at 17:18