D6: Building resiliency, restoring balance for Soldiers, Civilians, Families
November 12, 2010
Given the Army's 235-year history, resiliency is a relatively new word in our vocabulary. We hear it often nowadays, from the highest levels of leadership on down, as we talk about how we are addressing the effects of nine years of conflict. There may be a danger that someone will hear the word once too often and tune it out as the latest buzz word. However, we need to keep talking about it until every member of the Army community-every Soldier, Civilian and Family member-hears it and gets the message that we want them not only to survive, but to thrive.
A dictionary definition of resiliency is the ability to recover from misfortune or adjust easily to change. When we in the Army talk about resiliency, though, we are talking about more than the ability to bounce back from adversity. We are also talking about the ability to realize personal growth and development in the face of challenging situations. Resiliency is rooted in physical, mental and spiritual fitness. It is about finding the balance in your life between work, family and self, and living your dash-the line on the tombstone between the dates of birth and death-to the fullest.
During the last nine years of conflict, our Soldiers, Civilians and Family members have faced challenging situations, and in too many cases, tragedy. Multiple deployments and too little dwell time have strained our relationships. We can see the stress manifest in rising rates of divorce, domestic violence, suicide and other destructive behaviors. We have to reverse the trends. We owe it to our Soldiers, Civilians and Family members to help them build the resiliency they need to cope with their challenges and come out stronger and better.
The Army is recognizing the stress and strain on our forces and families. We are making resiliency a priority and a part of Army culture, and have taken a number of steps to assess and build resiliency in our Soldiers, Civilians and Family members. One of the initiatives is the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program. The program is designed to enhance the resilience, readiness and potential of Soldiers, Civilians and Family members by building strength in every area of life: not just physical fitness, but also emotional, social, spiritual, and family.
CSF is mandatory for Soldiers, but geared to the whole Army community, with components for Family members and Civilians as well. Soldiers, Civilians and Family members begin with the Global Assessment Tool, which measures strength in each of the five areas. The GAT is located at the CSF website, http://www.army.mil/csf. The results of the assessment direct an individualized training plan, which includes virtual training, classroom training and support from resilience experts. It is a long-term program, meant to help every member of our community succeed in his or her job and grow personally.
Another resource that helps Soldiers, Civilians and Family members build their resiliency are the Army Wellness Centers. Like the CSF, the Wellness Centers are focused on prevention. They are focused on helping individuals identify their problem areas and make positive changes for their health and well-being. Wellness Center programs include metabolic and fitness testing, nutrition education, weight management, stress management, and tobacco cessation.
One challenge for the Army is to make sure that every member of the Army community, including National Guard and Reserve Soldiers, and Family members who are not located near an installation, have access to the resources they need to build resiliency. Every member needs to know what support exists for them and where they can access it. We have plenty of great programs and services, such as the CSF program and Army Wellness Centers, but we need to make sure we are effective and efficient in delivering them to the Army Community members who can use them.
In the spring I will be joining senior commanders and other Army leaders at Fort Hood to discuss the importance of resiliency and the different ways we are approaching the issue. We are meeting there to take a look at a bricks-and-mortar model, the Fort Hood Resiliency Campus. The Resiliency Campus is a one-stop shop where Soldiers, Civilians and Families can go to strengthen their mind, body and spirit. Composed of several buildings located next to each other, the campus offers a comprehensive array of services and programs, including spiritual and physical fitness programs, personal financial assistance, culinary classes, individual and family counseling, Warrior Adventure Quest, and Family Programs.
The symposium will also consider the possibility of a virtual resiliency campus, which is in the beginning phases of conceptualization and development. IMCOM Headquarters' Chaplain Ministry Team will demonstrate a virtual Spiritual Fitness Center, which would be a core component of a virtual resiliency campus. The virtual Spiritual Fitness Center will be accessible both as a conventional website and in Second Life, on the Army One Source Survivor Island web page. Both avenues will provide Soldiers, Civilians and Family members faith-based and non-faith-based resources for building their spiritual fitness.
The virtual campus merits serious consideration. Like a physical campus, it would offer a single point of access to assess needs and direct the individual to the best source of help, but it would also be available to Army community members anywhere and anytime. Ultimately, the symposium will consider what models of resiliency campuses, virtual and physical, can be standardized to benefit the whole Army.
The Army's focus on resiliency is important. It puts mental, emotional and spiritual fitness on par with physical fitness, all of which we need to perform successfully. It also acknowledges that the Soldiers who make up our all-volunteer Army and their Family members need and want balance in their lives.
It is easy to get knocked off-balance by the challenges we face, which is why I encourage you to take the time to build your resiliency and find your balance. As I said, you have to live your dash. For me the dash signifies not only serving my country, but even more importantly, being a husband and father and making time for friends. When you are taking your last breaths, you are probably not going to wish you spent more time working, but more time doing the things you enjoy and being with the people you love. Especially during the fast-approaching holiday season, take the time to do what recharges you, to spend time with those important to you, and ultimately, to live your dash well.