Soldiers, civilians strive for resilient community: Master Resilency Training teaches people to deal
June 21, 2012
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Between deployments, everyday setbacks and separation from loved ones, military Families often face challenges their civilian counterparts can't imagine.
To help improve and reinforce resilience among the ranks and within the home, the Army introduced Master Resiliency Training.
MRT is one component of the Army's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program, which focuses on five dimensions of strength: emotional, social, spiritual, family and physical, according to Sgt. 1st Class Stephen King, division Comprehensive Soldier Fitness / MRT trainer. The University of Pennsylvania's Positive Psychology program created the curriculum to help units and Army Community Service reach out to Soldiers and Families and teach them to "bounce back" from adversity.
Part of King's job is to train MRT instructors. He recently taught a class of 120 Soldiers and civilians from Fort Drum, as well as National Guard and Reserve units and other Army installations, to become MRT trainers.
King said it's important to find the right people to train Soldiers and Family Members. While students are encouraged to share their lives during the class, trainers must be willing to open up, too.
"They have to be able to teach, but they also have to be able to tell their story," he explained. "If you can't tell your own story and relate to others, it's hard for you to sit there and tell people to be resilient.
"(It's good) if you can give them an example of things you've been through or things you've seen and show them there are different aspects of life where people use resiliency. People, depending on their upbringing or outlook, have different definitions of resiliency," King noted, adding that because Soldiers and Families come from diverse backgrounds and cultures, being able to reach the entire Army population is important.
Soldiers are required to participate in at least two hours of MRT every quarter, King explained. Each brigade and battalion has two MRT instructors, but MRT assistants also are essential to units' training. MRT assistants are required to learn all the modules, but the training is more condensed.
"They can't teach MRT, but they can assist the training," he said. "You have to have good MRTs, but you have to have good MRT assistants. They have to be knowledgeable (about) the subject, but I want them to have passion. Going through the four-day course changes their ways of thinking."
While it's important for Soldiers to know how to think more positively, deal with problems and find strength in the shadow of conflict, Families must know how to be resilient at home,
according to Jenn Eichner, ACS Mobilization and Deployment program manager. Army Community Service employees teach resilience training to Family Members and civilians, as well as Soldiers.
"We spend a lot of time telling (spouses) what to expect from their Soldier, classes about how to take care of your Soldier or help your Soldier," Eichner said. "We're finally being true to the fact that (you can't successfully) take care of anybody else until you're at your best (and) taking care of yourself.
"A lot of that is based on how you think. I used to be the type of person who believed you couldn't control how you think," she continued. "I realized through MRT, that's ridiculous. You are in complete control, and that's what we're helping people come to understand."
The goal of the class is to teach people how to think through their problems, gain an accurate understanding and to solve them, according to Sarah Lynch, ACS Outreach Program manager.
"We're teaching problem-solving strategies," she explained. "It doesn't matter if you're military, previous military or a civilian, the skills are universal. We're all human, and we all tend to fall into the same thinking patterns."
Diane Hupko, ACS Army Emergency Relief officer, agreed, saying MRT helped her get to know herself better.
"I think MRT gives you real tools to get to know yourself," she said. "By getting to know yourself, it improves your relationships and your quality of life."
Hupko admits that before taking the training, she lacked self-esteem and blamed herself for a lot of the problems she encountered. Since taking the training, Hupko has become an MRT instructor to help others.
"I was definitely a person who was a 'Me-Me-Me' thinker to the point where it was almost unhealthy," she explained, adding that taking MRT helped her look at problems differently.
Self-improvement is one of the benefits of taking the course, according to Rich Stepanek, ACS Mobilization and Deployment specialist.
"Failing to improve yourself is a wasted opportunity," he said. "Try to do your best, but when you don't, that's what being resilient is all about -- you bounce back and continue to learn from your mistakes.
"I don't think any of these competencies and skills are new to anyone," Stepanek continued. "I think a lot of them are embedded in us; this is just a way to bring them out. Some of us do these things daily and don't realize which skill we're using at the time. It's a good way to reflect on it and help solve future problems or issues."
Eichner agreed, adding that being more resilient not only helps individuals, it can help those around them too.
"What people don't realize is pessimism is very contagious, but so is optimism," she said. "If you can be consistent with your optimism, it does rub off on other people."
Using MRT skills at home can help children as young as 8, Hupko said. Giving children the skills early in life will help them deal with the trials and tribulations they will face in life.
"If we can prevent our kids from suffering through some of life's challenges as we have, that's a gift," Hupko explained.
"One thing that's important to remember is we're not talking about resiliency on a grand scale; we're not focused on getting through a yearlong deployment," she said. "This program focuses on getting through every day. Every day, we face adversity. It's not allowing the everyday adversity to become a (catastrophic event)."
MRT teaches people to avoid "making a mountain out of a molehill" and let a bad situation affect a person's whole day, Eichner added.
"For the first time, we're giving folks practical exercises that they can take away with them … and use in their everyday lives," she said. "It's different than saying 'listen, this is how you deal with things.'Now when we say to keep things in perspective, we've given you a worksheet that you can take home and physically do the work to keep things in perspective."
For more information about the training, contact your unit MRT representatives, or for a list of upcoming training opportunities, call ACS Information and Referral at 772-6557.