BETHESDA, Md. (July 30, 2015) -- Soldiers assigned to the Warrior Transition Brigade, Able Troop, received performance training designed to help them not only navigate the challenges as part of the recovery process, but also to provide focus and a different way of thinking as these Soldiers look to the next phase of their careers.
Every wounded, ill and injured Soldier must complete performance training before they are discharged from the Warrior Transition Unit, or WTU. Although the training is required, which gives the perception of a generic "check-the-box" training course, the Soldiers participating in the class from July 21 to 23, at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Naval Support Activity in Bethesda, Maryland, immediately recognized the benefits and how the skills can be applied throughout all phases of their lives.
"Training can be very boring and you have to find ways to keep yourself motivated. When you have instructors who love what they do, you really get engaged in it," Sgt. 1st Class April Rhodes, a Soldier going through the course, said of one of her instructors, Dr. Stephany Coakley, a master resilience trainer-performance expert with the National Capital Region Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness Training Center.
But, more importantly, it was the skills and the techniques being trained that were resonating most with Rhodes.
The three, three-hour sessions taught over consecutive days consist of training a variety of mental skills, to include building confidence, goal setting, attention control, energy management, and integrating imagery. Together, these skills provide a foundation for Soldiers to develop, strengthen and maintain performance excellence, regardless of the task being performed.
"I've learned to focus on one specific thing, and to channel my thoughts in a more positive way instead of always thinking the negative when something comes up," Rhodes said of what she's learned from the training. "I've learned how to prioritize and set my goals," which is key, believes Rhodes, especially for those navigating all the priorities that come with being part of a WTU.
"The expectation is that the [wounded, ill and injured Soldiers] will experience one or a combination of benefits, such as being more mentally tough in physically, mentally and emotionally demanding situations; have greater life satisfaction, better relationships and better performances," said Coakley.
Capt. Sandy Segrist, another Soldier attending the class, agrees that this training is beneficial no matter one's situation.
"I think there are obstacles that come up in anyone's life, whether you're in the Army or out, in your personal life or away from work, it's about achieving those goals that you want to achieve," Segrist said.
The trainers focus in on the skill of goal setting, even more so with the WTU Soldiers because of their unique circumstances of being faced with, oftentimes, what is an unexpected and unwanted transition out of the Army.
Goal setting allows individuals to identify a personally meaningful goal and develop a concrete plan to ensure achievement of that goal. Through the process, they also develop strategies to help them stay committed and ultimately attain the goal.
"[I'm looking at the training] from a different perspective, as a patient versus a leader," Segrist said. Segrist has been with the Warrior Transition Brigade since May and is unsure of the timeline for his transition. "I do not have the same goals that I still had whenever I first [went through the training]. This is more like career transition, which is very chaotic, so these skills are things I need to keep in my head," he said.
The skill of attention control helps these Soldiers steer through that chaos.
It is easy to lose focus when in the Warrior Transition Brigade, says Rhodes. "You're in an environment where everyone is trying to heal, but there are things going on outside -- other Soldiers transitioning out, Soldiers who want to stay in [the Army] and trying to figure out what you want to do next. So you're combating that, all those other entities. This class puts everything into perspective," she said.
Attention control helps to heighten sensory awareness to what is most relevant and keep it there to avoid distraction. As part of the training, Soldiers learn techniques on how to direct attention and identify their own internal and external distractors, and also how to develop routines so that they can set and reset the ideal focus state needed to enable consistency in their performances.
At the end of the training workshop, the Soldiers are equipped with various tools and techniques they can use each day to better their performances. "Everyone contributes to discussions and begins to develop a plan for how they will incorporate skills, even after the transition process," said Ashley Jenkins, another co-instructor for the class. "We want to ensure the training is focused on the Soldier's personal recovery and goals, and allows them to focus on what is within their control," she said.
WTU Soldiers who are interested in receiving performance training should speak with their squad leader, platoon sergeant, or nurse case manager. The caregivers and Family members who support the Soldier are also encouraged and welcome to attend.
In addition to providing tailored training to the WTUs, the Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness program also makes performance training available to all Soldiers, and the Army civilians and Family members who support them.
For more information, contact your local CSF2 Training Center, http://csf2.army.mil/locations.html.