Changes to Comprehensive Soldier Fitness focus on families
August 22, 2012
By J.D. Leipold
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Aug. 22, 2012) -- Thirty-two Army spouses are now qualified to serve as master resilience trainers after completing a pilot program identical to the one Soldiers take to become MRTs under what was formerly called Comprehensive Soldier Fitness, or CSF.
Reflecting changes to the newly renamed Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness program, or CSF2, the spouses attended a 10-day, 80-hour course at Fort Campbell, Ky., to learn how to train other spouses in psychological health and resiliency principles.
Col. Kenneth Riddle, new CSF2 director, said teaching the other half of the family effective listening techniques, constructive response and optimism skills along with critical thinking skills is okay, but sharing those communication tools are what builds strong families, and that's a primary objective he's focused on as the program evolves.
"The spouses are the ones who came up with the idea," said Riddle, who participated in a 90-day strategic review of CSF before becoming its leader. "They said, 'train us as MRTs and we'll turn around and train other spouses because we see them at Family Readiness Group meetings; we have yellow-ribbon events, picnics, coffee groups; we see each other every day and can teach the same skills just as Soldiers do.'"
The colonel said not only was the curriculum for the 32 spouses identical to that which Soldiers receive, this pilot class was mixed and included 29 Soldiers, something he noted could become the future of the training.
Riddle said his staff will spend the next 30 to 90 days studying how the pilot program worked out on what he termed a fairly isolated population.
"That's why it was a pilot, so we could collect data, look at how many spouses they touch, how many skills they're teaching; the frequency, the efficacy and then if it's proven effective, we'll deploy the program Army-wide," he said.
If the review proves the program effective, Riddle said he'd recommend to the chief of staff of the Army that spouses be allocated seats for master resilience training at Fort Jackson, S.C., the University of Pennsylvania and Fort McCoy, Wis., where a new school was stood up to support primarily the Army Reserve and National Guard. He would like to see spouses incorporated into the Mobile Training Teams.
Presently, CSF2 trains 120 MRTs monthly at the Leadership Development Division, which was formerly called Victory University, at Fort Jackson. In addition to the 10-day level-one base MRT instruction, the schoolhouse plans to open up instruction in level II facilitator training. Training for levels II, III (assistant primary instructor for breakout groups) and IV (primary instructor for the entire MRT course within a command) are taught at the University of Pennsylvania.
"We're sending mobile training teams with levels II, III and IV out to every installation and holding courses with class sizes ranging from 60 to 140 monthly," Riddle said, adding that MRT seats at the University of Pennsylvania have been reduced from 180 every month to every other month. He said the program would eventually become self-sustaining and independent of UPenn.
When the original CSF program launched in 2009, MRT training was limited to staff-sergeant squad leaders and sergeants first class who were platoon sergeants because it was felt they had the maturity level and skills to teach resiliency skills to their Soldiers.
Senior enlisted leadership recognized the Army was missing the boat by not opening the training to its sergeants who have proven capable team and squad leaders, so that too is in the works as well as a refresher MRT course for those Soldiers who haven't been training the MRT skills or have transferred to other units in new capacities.
Riddle said since 2009, more than 11,000 Soldiers have become level-one master resilience trainers, but he estimates that number has dropped by about half. So the Army will not only bring sergeants aboard as MRTs, it will increase the requirement of one MRT per battalion to one per company.