By Brian B. Feeney, Ph.D.September 25, 2013
ARLINGTON, Va. (Sept. 26, 2013) -- Meet the Casons. They're the modern Army Resilient family. They are both sergeants first class stationed at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois; they are raising three daughters together; and they are both Army Master Resilience Trainers.
"We use resilience techniques like Detecting Icebergs and Avoiding Thinking Traps while driving our daughters to soccer practice, and we do Hunt the Good Stuff every evening at dinner. It's made our family stronger and we would recommend it to every Army family," said Sgt. First Class Aileen Cason.
They first met while working for the 89th Transportation Company at Fort Eustis in Virginia; got married and later moved duty stations together to the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, or SDDC, at Scott Air Force. They had been in the Army for over 12 years before Aileen was sent to the University of Pennsylvania, in April of 2013, to attend Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness's intensive 10-day Master Resilience Trainer, or MRT, course.
"At the time I thought it was just another TDY (temporary duty) to get some more Army training," recalled John Cason. "But when she called home in the evenings, she was so excited about what she was learning that I figured there was something really different about this."
"Then, once she got home, she shared as much of the course as she could with me and taught me how to use the concepts with our kids. She devoted herself to becoming a resilient person. I can remember sometimes wondering after we talked something over, is she 'MRT'ing' me?" he added.
John was selected to attend the MRT course in Philadelphia, less than five months later in August 2013.
"I arrived with a pretty clear idea of what to expect, but that's when I really learned how to apply the concepts. I was especially struck by tactical breathing, drawing a full, slow breath as an energy management technique. The idea is to lower the intensity of emotions so you can think and respond more clearly. The lights were turned down and we heard soft music as we practiced. I could feel the change in my mind and body, and I was impressed," he added.
Aileen has been especially pleased by the progress she has seen in her oldest daughter over the months since integrating the skills at home.
"Neelia was prone to the 'Me, Me, Me' Thinking Trap, believing that she was the sole cause of all the obstacles in her life. I was able to help her become more positive through techniques such as real-time resilience, which taught her how to coach herself out of negative thinking. Now she's happier with herself and her confidence is building," she said.
The Casons agree that their deployments would have been a lot easier on themselves, their family and the Soldiers they deployed with had they received the training earlier.
"She deployed six weeks ahead of me, and as I sat home with the girls, I could have really used techniques such as Put It In Perspective and Avoid Thinking Traps," John said.
Aileen added, "During deployment some of my Soldiers really got down, I can see now how I could have used the training to help them problem solve and keep up their morale."
At Scott Air Force Base, the Casons have the opportunity to provide Resilience Training to Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen plus their spouses due to the mix of services involved in SDDC. What they find challenging is the absence of an MRT community to share best practices with and to provide a sense of camaraderie.
"However," John said, "that is more than made up for by those moving moments when somebody you have trained tells you how they've applied the skills and how it has improved their lives."
The Casons see resilience as a key part of the Army's future.
"As the Army winds down its overseas commitments and becomes a more garrison environment, and as the force is downsized, Soldiers are going to benefit from Resilience Training as they deal with transition and plan for a future outside the Army."
Whatever the Army's future may hold, one thing is certain, the Casons will experience it as a ready and resilient family.
Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command is a unique Army command that delivers world-class, origin-to-destination distribution solutions. Whenever and wherever Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen are deployed, SDDC is involved in planning and executing the delivery of their equipment and supplies through surface and multi-modal transportation operations. The command, headquartered at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., accomplishes this mission by partnering with the best of U.S. commercial shipping, port, air, trucking and rail services to deliver cargo to every corner of the globe supporting Department of Defense contingencies, exercises and humanitarian aid missions.