Soldier 360° gets leaders at right time: Course builds resilience after reintegration
August 17, 2011
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GRAFENWOEHR, Germany, Aug. 17, 2011 -- Just three months after returning from Afghanistan, more than 40 noncommissioned officers from the 2nd Stryker Calvary Regiment, based out of Rose Barracks, Germany, reported for Soldier 360°, a leader comprehensive fitness course for junior and senior noncommissioned officers, Aug. 8-18.
The two-week course introduced leaders to programs available throughout the Grafenwoehr Military Community, while learning to provide support to their squad members and peers, who might be struggling with stress, relationship challenges, anger, physical fitness or other challenges.
Soldier 360° is based on leadership -- therefore noncommissioned officers, or NCOs, must be nominated by their commanders to participate in the training. These are also Soldiers who are expected to stay in the Army and give back to the community.
The recent class had more than 70 participants. It was the largest class to date. The NCOs learned to offset stress, using stress management and relaxation techniques, such as Yoga, Tai Chi, meditation, physical fitness and conditioning, while also completing classes in injury prevention, pain management, communication, conflict resolution nutrition, sleep, combat and post traumatic stress and alcohol management.
"The NCOs from the 2SCR (2nd Stryker Calvary Regiment) are the target audience," said Capt. Melissa Riester, the course officer-in-charge and Reservist from the 196th Medical Support Unit in Mannheim, Germany, who is currently mobilized with the Bavaria Medical Command at Rose Barracks, "because the intent is to introduce techniques to support wellness and resilience during the 90-120 day redeployment window when problems begin to surface and before outside intervention is needed."
A unit just returning from downrange may experience a variety of changes as they reintegrate into the community, and this course helps them negotiate those challenges, Riester said.
"Just after being here for the first day, I realized a lot of things will be beneficial to myself, Soldiers, and even my family," said Staff Sgt. Donald Thornton, participant.
The program is meant to train a few Soldiers with these techniques so that they can teach others.
"The NCO Corps is the backbone of the Army," said Maj. Glen Wurglitz, an instructor for Soldier 360°, and a Reservist with 785th Medical Company. "If they can grab hold of the program, then they will be the levers that change the Army."
"These are leaders," Wurglitz said. "They are going to learn how to impact their own lives, and then as they go back and work with their troops, they are going to take what they've learned here, and pass it on to their families."
Riester explains Soldier 360° instills traits that may have been lost because of frequent deployments and the current operational tempo. These trends where recorded in the Health Promotion Risk Reduction, and Suicide Prevention Report, a recent study.
"We give them the tools they need to handle what goes on at home as well as what goes on in the field," Riester said. "Giving them skills so they can be better garrison leaders as well as effective field leaders is the goal."
Soldier 360° supports total health and wellness, which should sustain the Soldiers long after they finish the course.
"It's not something that they are going to learn in two weeks and never use again. These are things that all of us in one way or another use on a regular basis," Wurglitz said.
Soldiers are also encouraged to bring spouses and significant others during week two.
"Week one, the focus is on the Soldier, and week two they actually do the teaching," Wurglitz said. "By having their spouses come, they are not only demonstrating that they have the concepts, but for the spouses that are hearing this for the first time, they also benefit from what their Soldiers learned week one."
Soldier 360° encourages communication and teamwork.
"My wife is kind of skeptical but when she sees what the program is about she will get something out of it and I think that we both, as a married couple, will get something out of it and enjoy it," Thornton said.
The overall focus of Soldier 360° is not about the two weeks that the Soldiers are there, but the long-term benefits that will continue long after the end of the program.
"They become better Soldiers. They become better spouses. They become better parents. They become better leaders," Wurglitz said. "Our motto is, 'skills for leaders, skills for life.'"
For more on the course and other observations, activities and reflections, visit the Soldier 360° website at http://www.catctraining.hqjmtc.army.mil/s360/index.html or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Soldier360.