By Sgt. Cheryl CoxMarch 4, 2015
One of the most important skills Soldiers have is being resilient during difficult times. While each Soldier is different, they all face similar challenges -- moving to a new duty station, meeting new leadership, and the constant unknowns of Army life. When Soldiers arrive at Fort Drum they go through a two-day Master Resilience Training course where they learn skills for combatting daily stresses.
The Master Resilience Training course is part of the Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness program, which is designed to build resilience and enhance performance of the Army family -- Soldiers, their families and Army civilians.
A large part of the duties of a noncommissioned officer encompasses not just leading but also mentoring and developing new leaders to follow in their footsteps. As new Soldiers arrive at Fort Drum mentoring and teaching skills to help develop Soldiers and leaders is exactly what some noncommissioned officers from across 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI) are doing.
"As an NCO, my job is not only to raise them up as Soldiers but also to help better them as adults. With teaching some of these skills to some of the personnel who are just coming in it's like helping them along and coaching them and mentoring them more," said Staff Sgt. Randy Armstrong, C Troop, 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, 1st BCT, 10th MTN DIV. "It enables me to actually get involved with them on a more personal level and since I'm instructing them on these things it gives me a broader approach to actually be able to assist them with a problem they may be having and be able to come up with a solution."
While some of the Soldiers arriving here are coming to their first duty station following basic training and Advanced Individual Training, others are seasoned Soldiers coming from other duty stations; but each and every one of them is preparing to make Fort Drum their new home. One Soldier who is preparing to join a new team of Soldiers at Fort Drum is Master Sgt. Craig Pitts.
"I have been in the Army for 18 years," stated Pitts, who will soon be joining 1st BCT. "Since I have been going through MRT over the past few years I have actually used quite a bit of it. It's taught me to cope with lot of different situations that I come across as a leader and in my personal life too."
The Army is filled with mandatory training which Soldiers attend each year. The trick to instructing a course such as MRT is to engage the Soldiers and make the subject matter interesting in order for each Soldier to receive and retain the information.
"When teaching you have to make sure that you are actually engaging the Soldiers and not just reading off slides. Have them contribute to the conversation. The whole point of MRT is actually having a conversation with them about these particular skill sets," Armstrong explained. "You can read a Power Point slides all day and nobody is going to get purpose of it, but if you actually get them engaged and involved in active discussion within the lessons they will get more out of it than they would otherwise."
While teaching MRT and helping the Soldiers learn a new skill is rewarding for the NCO's leading the class, the Soldiers are also being rewarded with a new skill to take back to their new units.
"The instructors are very engaging. They are making a subject matter that could be very dry, very engaging and really easy to pay attention to and pick up on all the concepts and lessons," said 2nd Lt. Andrew Boychuck, who will soon be joining headquarters and headers company, 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 1st BCT, 10th MTN DIV. "These skills are something to throw into the toolbox. So that if a buddy or one of my Soldiers is down and out I now have this technique to help them out with it."
While each person adds something different to their toolbox for handling different situations, the Soldiers in the class agree that skills taught in MRT are more than just words on a slide.
"One of the main things that we have learned is to recognize when a Soldier is catastrophizing a situation," Pitts said. "Catastrophizing actually happens a lot with many Soldiers. A simple thing that happens a lot is a First Sergeant comes by and tells a Soldier to go stand at parade rest outside his office. Immediately all he thinks is that he is in trouble. One of the tools MRT teaches us is instead of thinking about the worst things that can happen think of some of the good things also. Instead of thinking about the negative things the whole time, it helps them cope with it a little better. It also helps with us leaders too. Instead of just telling a Soldiers 'Hey just stand outside my office,' give them a little more description about what you need to speak to them about. That way, they aren't just standing there outside our office stressing out about what we need to talk to them about."
Since attending the MRT training and becoming an instructor, Armstrong has seen Soldiers use the skills that he brought back and taught to them.
"It helps Soldiers realize that certain adversities in their life can be either avoided or circumvented by utilizing the skills that are taught through out the MRT program to help improve their ability to bounce back from adversity," explained Armstrong.
Following the training that Pitts is receiving he looks forward to being able to use these skills to assist the Soldiers around him.
"I can assist the younger Soldiers coming up," Pitts said. "When they come across stressful situations, I will be able to assist them with the skills that I have learned here in this class to overcome their problems or any other issues that they may have."
For every type of mental stress there is an exercise that can be done to combat it and get back on the right track. The skills taught at MRT are usefully in every day life to combat stresses with family, at work, or interacting with others by learning coping skills for how to resolve those issues peacefully and calmly.