Staff Sergeants Craig Nance and Adam Proffitt, 21st Signal Co., discuss how to reduce counter-productive thinking and improve problem-solving skills. "

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. -- Staff Sergeant Craig Nance doesn't remember hearing the word "resilience" when he joined the Army 20 years ago. Back then, the attitude was "Put it behind you and carry on."

The 21st Signal Company NCO is thankful what he remembers as the culture of crusty sergeants major not listening to their Soldiers' problems has been replaced with compassionate leaders who ask questions and do all they can to provide a helping hand.

The Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. has been a driving force in his push for every Soldier to be resilient and ready for the nation's next war.

To do that, he asked the University of Pennsylvania and senior Army leaders to design a comprehensive plan that maximizes Soldiers' mettle, mind and mental thinking and focuses on the five dimensions of strength: physical, spiritual, emotional, social and family performance levels by providing individually tailored skill training that leads to a balanced, healthy, self-confident force.

Major factors in making that happen are Master Resilience Trainers placed in units at battalion and above. These senior NCOs or officers have completed the U of PA's 10-day course covering all aspects of the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program.

The Master Fitness Trainers, in turn, have Resiliency Training Assistants at the company, battalion or brigade levels, who act as the "eyes and ears" for the trainers. They oversee their unit's Global Assessment Tool survey all Soldiers must complete yearly. Joint Base Lewis-McChord has a requirement to field up to 600 assistants per the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness regulation.

Working to meet that objective through monthly weeklong classes on teaching NCOs how to be resiliency assistants is Master Sgt. Rajan Robinson, from I Corps Surgeon cell.

A Master Resilience Trainer himself, Robinson is trying to help the brigades meet the requirement by offering his services, resources and time to train the assistants. Once they have completed the course, assistants will go back to their units and assist other MRTs in facilitating the resiliency courses for their respective courses. The class he teaches spends 25 classroom hours going over the major core competencies associated with the CSF program, including self-regulation, self-awareness, optimism, mental agility, connection and strength of character. Energy management practices taken directly from how Olympic athletes prepare for their events are taught as well.

"As people develop their holistic fitness strength, they develop psychological resilience to not only bounce back, but to thrive under challenging conditions," said Brig. Gen. Rhonda Cornum, the CSF director.

Master Resilience Trainer Master Sgt. George Hedspeth completed a resilience assistants course last week that featured counter-productive thinking and the importance of real-time resilience.
"It all comes down to our thought processes," said Hedspeth, also with I Corps Surgeon cell. "We can always change our thoughts; it's the emotions and reactions that we can't change, and that's why we need real-time resilience."

Research by U of Pa. suggests that humans have about 1,000 counter-productive or negative thoughts a day. Those numbers increase when put into fear-producing situations like preparing for a convoy outside the wire. But using evidence, optimism and perspective, Hedspeth said, those fears can be overcome.

While the 20 NCOs who completed the class join a growing number of assistants who return to their units, Comprehensive Soldier Fitness classes are being taught at the other end of the spectrum, in Basic Combat Training for new recruits. Master Resilience Training courses are making their way into the NCO Education System schools like the Warrior Leadership Course and the Basic NCO Course. Drill sergeants are now Master Resilience Trainer-qualified.

Robinson wishes he could have had training like this when he was a young sergeant.

"In order for us to get any real measurement of (Comprehensive Soldier Fitness)'s effectiveness, that takes time," he said. "The culture change may not happen in my time, but the young E-5s and E-6s who will become senior NCOs will benefit from this in the long run."

The spotlight on resilience is another way Army leadership can show how much they care about our nation's warriors, Robinson said. For the past nine years of war, the word "resilience" has been used in a medical context, as doctors and nurses needed to be resilient to provide effective health care. Now, resiliency is required by all Soldiers to maintain the high operational tempo.

"We needed to become concerned with prevention as opposed to treatment, and that's what these skills are - prevention techniques," Robinson said.

Resilience as a buzzword has spread beyond the Army. The Air Force Comprehensive Airman Fitness program is thriving at McChord Field. Air Force first-line supervisors are key in helping build the Comprehensive Airman Fitness culture and according to the Air Force Professional Development Guide at airforce.mil, more "resilient" Airmen by reducing "self-defeating behaviors, feelings of hopelessness and despair ... and yield stronger, healthier, happier, more resilient Airmen and families who are better equipped to manage the rigors of 21st century military life."

Staff Sergeant Adam Proffitt just completed the assistant course, and is excited to get back to the 21st Signal Co. to share what he learned with his fellow Soldiers.

"I feel like I've learned how to think in a different mindset," Proffitt said.

Resilience Training Assistants can be sergeants to master sergeants, or second lieutenants to majors. For more information, units can call Robinson at 477-0257. Visit the website at http://csf.army.mil.

Lorin T. Smith: lorin.smith@nwguardian.com

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