By U.S. ArmyMay 8, 2014
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Soldiers from 3rd Brigade Combat Team will put their physical and mental strength to the test in a few short weeks when they begin Expert Infantryman Badge evaluations.
Staff members from Fort Drum's Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness program provided a special training session April 25 to help prepare some of them for the mental and physical challenges they will face.
Sgt. Maj. Roy A. Holmes, Task Force 1 senior enlisted adviser, 3rd Brigade Combat Team - rear, said the EIB evaluation tests Soldiers on level one infantry tasks.
"While it has evolved over the years, the concept is generally the same," he said. "It tests infantrymen on their basic skills: land navigation, (Army Physical Fitness Test), weapons qualification (and) medical, weapons and communications tasks, just to name a few."
Holmes said CSF2 training has helped increase the successful completion rate at various Army schools.
He encouraged the Soldiers in attendance to keep an open mind, listen and apply it to their training.
"That's why you're here," he said. "We want you to get this class so we can give you the best opportunity that we can afford you to be successful at the EIB."
Traditionally, the EIB has a high attrition rate, Holmes explained. About 22 percent of Soldiers who are evaluated perform the tasks to standard and earn the EIB. CSF2 training has been used to improve success rates at other Army schools like the Pathfinder, Sniper and Jump Master courses.
"I figured if this training could help (Soldiers) in those training events, then it would be able to assist our Soldiers in having a better opportunity to earn their EIB," Holmes said. "Secondly, CSF2 training is designed to help Soldiers concentrate and overcome difficult tasks or road blocks, so by receiving this training, our candidates will be more prepared to deal with the trials and tribulations of EIB testing."
For an infantryman, earning the EIB is an important step in his career field, Holmes added.
"Earning your EIB is second only to deploying to combat and earning your Combat Infantryman's Badge," he said. "It is designed to test the skills required to be able to perform as an infantryman in combat and succeed."
After reviewing the requirements of the EIB testing, CSF2 staff members were able to provide an informative course to spe-cifically target the Soldiers' train- ing needs.
"We chose the topics of mindset, energy management, focus, imagery and memory, as they are skills that can be applied to any activity -- at work or at home," said Jeff Nelden, CSF2 Training Center director. "These skills apply to EIB testing, passing / maxing the APFT, weapons qualifications, college courses -- you name it. These are foundational skills for all Soldiers' 'kitbags.'"
All of the CSF2 instructors are master resilience trainer -- performance experts. Just like professional sports teams, the Army provides trainers to help Soldiers improve their performance by helping with their cognitive skills and level of resilience, according to Steve Brown, MRT-PE.
During the class, instructors not only taught the Soldiers some basic sport psychology skills, but they also put Soldiers to the test during strenuous physical activity.
"Hopefully, you will be able to take the skills we teach in (the classroom) and bring them outside and compete against each other," Brown said. "This 'crawl, walk, run' methodology will allow you take what you've learned with you when you're performing those tasks on the lanes.
Brown also said he spent two months at Fort Bragg, N.C., training units on CSF2 techniques.
"There would be Soldiers sitting there looking up at the sky and talking and joking around. They weren't getting ready to go," he said. "There were other guys sitting there going through the motions and talking the (task) out. He was always the 'go' -- every time."
"If you can use these skills, they can have a big impact on the result," Brown added.
Katrina McTeague, MRT-PE, discussed the importance of knowing the Soldiers' mindset before, during and after a task.
"We want you to be the most successful and most effective with your thoughts," she explained. "We're going to talk about controlling the controllable. We have the most control of our thoughts -- what we focus on, what we think about and how we react to things. We have no control over what happens to us, but we can control how we react."
Thoughts, whether they are productive or counterproductive, can affect a person's emotions and physiological responses, Mc-Teague explained.
The next module discussed energy management. Caitlyn Jordan, MRT-PE, explained that by simply using deep breathing techniques, people can lower core body temperature, reduce heart rate and slow down blood flow.
It is important for Soldiers to know the amount of energy required for specific tasks, she added. For example, a 12-mile road march requires a lot of energy over a long period of time, while weapons qualification takes a low amount of energy.
"Having the right mindset can help ensure you have the right amount of energy for the task at hand," Jordan said.
If Soldiers keep focusing on how they are tired, they will tend to drag on and not put forth the energy required to perform the task, Jordan said. Conversely, if a Soldier has too much energy for a task that requires precision and focus, that could also negatively affect the result.
The third module included tips to help the Soldiers remain focused and maintain attention control.
"It's about not blocking out distractions, but giving your mind something to focus on," said Joe Plandowski, MRT-PE.
Greta Raaen, lead MRT-PE, talked about using imagery to help the Soldiers prepare for certain tasks.
"Imagery and visualization can help build confidence or fine-tune a technique," she said.
In some instances, a person cannot physically perform a task to practice and create muscle memory. Using imagery -- envisioning the task and using all of the senses to set the stage and go through the motions -- can help the body create an auto response, Raaen explained.
The last module discussed memory.
"The more creative we can be with our memory, the better," Brown said. "The more personalized you can make your memory, the better."
There are different ways to remember information, but the most helpful is through personal association -- something that will mean something to the individual, he added.
After the classroom portion of the training, instructors took the Soldiers outside to complete physical tasks like running, performing pullups and fine-motor skill tests. They also give them mental tasks to complete simultaneously to allow them to practice some of the skills they learned.
Pfc. Cameron Moore, 3rd Squad-ron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, said he already uses imagery, but he learned some new skills that will help him during EIB training and testing.
"Breathing changes everything when you're doing a task," he said. "I think (the training) will help me slow down my thinking and change my thinking. I'm going to go in and be as motivated and prepared as possible."