U.S. Army Alaska focuses on resilience
September 27, 2011
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- U.S. Army Alaska's leadership and staff focused on building resilience in Soldiers, families and the community during a conference here Sept. 7-8.
The event was an opportunity for USARAK leaders to take stock of its ongoing campaign to develop a comprehensive, integrated approach to promoting mental health and reducing risk among USARAK's Soldiers, civilians and family members.
A Department of Defense expert briefed the USARAK leaders on a recent study examining the military's most effective programs
After a decade of war and more deployments on the horizon, the need to develop resiliency in Soldiers and families is as great as ever, according to USARAK Commander Maj. Gen. Raymond Palumbo.
"The Army's going to be in this kind of challenge for the next several years -- lot of pressure on families, our loved ones," Palumbo said. "What we're trying to do is talk about coping skills, things we can do to improve the resilience of not only our Soldiers and their families, but the communities."
The Army adopted the term resilience, which Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines as "an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change," after the 2007 troop surge in Iraq brought longer deployments and less time back home.
"We were sending folks over there for a year, to come home for 10 months, and go back for a year, then come home for a year, then go back for a year," Palumbo said. "You need to be resilient to be able to do that over the long term."
U.S. Public Health Service Cmdr. George Durgin, who heads the Resilience Division at the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, spoke to the USARAK leaders about a recent study he co-authored on "Promoting Psychological Resilience in the U.S. Military."
The study, published by the RAND Center for Military Health Policy Research, identifies factors that show scientific evidence of improving coping skills when dealing with stress, he said.
"The leaders in Alaska are developing a flagship family program, and they asked where they could find a source for best practices, since there are so many military family programs," Durgin said. "Sharing this information gives senior staff a toolbox to help their troops stay combat ready."
The RAND study found a broad range of resiliency programs and practices proven to be effective in combating the kind of repeated stress Soldiers and families deal with, according to Durgin.
"Everything is in. We have psychology, we have behavioral health, we have fitness, we have environmental … It all ties into each other in a holistic approach around the service member," Durgin said.
Durgin pointed his audience to a number of web-based resilience resources currently available to commanders, Soldiers and families.
This is the second year in a row that U.S. Army Alaska leaders have convened on the topic of promoting resilience.
Last year, prompted by the release of the Army's "Health Promotion, Risk Reduction, and Suicide Prevention," or HP/RR/SP, report, USARAK launched a study of its own, looking at its many resiliency programs and determining how best to use them.
Such self-examination has become part of USARAK's business process for promoting resilience and preventing high-risk behavior, according to Palumbo. The command compiles data and statistics on high-risk behavior among its units and uses it to determine where and how to focus its efforts.
Information about the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury is online at: http://www.dcoe.health.mil/
More information about the Army's flagship resilience program, Comprehensive Soldier Fitness, can be found online at: http://csf.army.mil/