Comprehensive Soldier Fitness marks change in Army culture
September 27, 2010
- In October 2009 the Army launched a new individually-tailored, skill-training program known as known as Comprehensive Soldier Fitness.
- There are five core areas, or "Five Dimensions of Strength", CSF concentrates on: physical, emotional, social, family and spiritual.
- Fort Eustis will host a Resiliency Fair Sept. 30 from 9 a.m. to noon at the Fort Eustis Club.
The Army has historically invested time and training into the physical well-being of a Soldier, but what about the emotional, social, family and spiritual areas that also make up a warrior' Though these areas have been overlooked in the past, the Army is now on a mission to assure Soldiers, plus Army civilians and family members, are equipped in all dimensions to handle adversity.
For an Army that has been at war for nine years and has experienced the variety of stressors that entails, a new way to help Soldiers, Army civilians and family members cope with these challenges was bound to be discovered. In the summer of 2008, Army leadership began the quest to find that discovery. According to an interview with Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey Jr. as he visited a training class in Philadelphia in November 2009, even though there were established procedures to help with the strain of Army life in the new millennium, preventative and resiliency tools were lacking.
Making an investment in holistic, resilience-building fitness, in October 2009 the Army launched a new individually-tailored, skill-training program known as Comprehensive Soldier Fitness to leverage the playing field. Based on 30 plus years of scientific study by University of Pennsylvania psychology professor Dr. Martin Seligman, the vision of CSF, according to the program's website at www.army.mil/csf, is to create "an Army of balanced, healthy, self-confident Soldiers, families and Army civilians whose resilience and total fitness enables them to thrive in an era of high operational tempo and persistent conflict."
There are five core areas, or "Five Dimensions of Strength", CSF concentrates on: physical, emotional, social, family and spiritual. The physical dimension is the most familiar to the Army culture. This area focuses on performing and excelling in physical activities through exercise, nutrition and training.
The emotional and social dimensions have received more attention in modern years due to the Army's emphasis on behavioral health. The emotional facet is about approaching life's challenges in an optimistic way by an individual having positive choices and actions. The social component centers on the relationships and friendships that are personally fulfilling and foster good communication.
The spiritual element encompasses all beliefs, principles or values that sustain a person beyond all other forms of strength. And finally, the family dimension, which has been more recognized by the Army in recent years, is regarding being part of a family unit that is safe, supportive, loving, and provides a healthy and secure environment.
To access an individual's level in each of the areas, except physical, the Army developed the Global Assessment Tool, just one of four of the CSF training elements. The GAT, available in specialized formats for Soldiers, Army civilians and family members, is an online self-assessment questionnaire that provides the opportunity to track self-development and growth over time. The answers and evaluation supplied in the GAT are confidential and only visible to the individual. As completion of the GAT is mandatory for Soldiers, unit commanders can see the unit's aggregate score but not an individual's. The GAT is also not graded on a pass or fail criteria.
The next training element is the Comprehensive Resilience Modules, training modules suggested for areas that may have tested as a low strength on an individual's GAT. Each individual's scores will be different with varying degrees in the areas of emotional, social, family and spiritual. Therefore, each person's training program through the modules is an individualized plan to build in areas that have tested as a low strength.
The third element is Master Resilience Training. This 10-day course at the University of Pennsylvania is designed to train individuals in critical thinking that will increase a person's optimism, self-awareness and mental agility. The training teaches these individuals how to help others implement the principles of CSF into their lives through resiliency training.
Staff Sgt. Scott Sargent, Master Resilience trainer for the 508th Transportation Company, has created CSF handbooks for his unit and provides monthly CSF training sessions using the Comprehensive Resilience Modules. He said CSF is a program that he "lives it, teaches it, instructs it."
"... If you don't get people to buy into (Comprehensive Soldier Fitness) or really believe their mind could be changed or that they're looking at something the wrong way, it's never going to work," said Sargent. "If I can make their hair stand up and make them cheer up a little bit, they can see the vision there.
"I've been in the Army a total of 18 years, and there is a lot of check-the-block training, but I was like (Comprehensive Soldier Fitness) is really good stuff that can really help Soldiers open their minds and have different ways of thinking about stuff," said Sargent. "I think I bring a little bit of (passion) because I use a lot of personal stuff with my class, and I try to get (the students) to open up."
Sargent provided his first training session in April where Spc. Traci Jackson was a student. Already, she said, she has been using the skills she learned to change situations.
"... I see some of the things that I do, and when you think about it, don't always be so quick to do anything whether it's your job or whether it's dealing with people in your ever day life," said Jackson. "I think (resiliency training) is a very helpful class all around."
The final element of training is Sustainment Resilience Training. Used throughout a Soldier's career, this element begins upon entry into the Army and is used in life-cycle training through the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command's courses. Soldiers are also required to re-take the GAT annually to track their progress.
"(Comprehensive Soldier Fitness) is not a one-time class ... it's an ongoing process," said Donna Cloy, Army Community Service Master Resilience trainer.
Cloy says CSF is a different way for the Army to think about strength. As the Army's culture is changing to accept the fact that Soldiers are made up of more than physical strength, she said, CSF is building skills in mental strength to help create resiliency.
"Resiliency isn't about not having bad things happen in your life. You do have bad things. You see bad things in combat. Bad things happen to you every day," said Cloy. "It's how you look at those things; it's how you deal not only with yourself but the people around you and be able to have positive action out of that so your not so traumatized by (negative events) that you can't function. (Comprehensive Soldier Fitness) helps people get through those events so they can deal with it."