ARLINGTON, Va. (Sept. 16, 2015) -- The Army is taking a proactive, methodical look at improving prevention and intervention training by integrating skills to make the training more effective.
As part of its ready and resilient efforts, the Army has taken the first step toward integrating the training curricula from programs such as Army Suicide Prevention, Army Substance Abuse, and Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness.
A team of curriculum designers, along with researchers from the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, or WRAIR, Public Health Command and Soldiers, who served as consultants, spent the last six months developing the first version of a training module to meet this intent. The module provides techniques on how to increase awareness and open channels of communication, while emphasizing the responsibility of members of the Total Army to take action when others demonstrate behaviors that run counter to the Army values.
"To best be able to provide capabilities to develop and sustain the personal readiness of our Soldiers, and Army civilians and their Families, we need to look holistically at ways to modify risk factors and enhance protective factors," said Col. Kevin Bigelman, Operations and Training Division chief in support of Ready and Resilient. "We must step back and look at commonalities between counterproductive behaviors, and identify and implement evidence-based and effective ways to ensure we are doing all we can to preserve the overall health and resilience of the force."
The integrated training is being developed in phases: identify concept; develop content; translate content to trainers; observe execution of content; and assess and measure effectiveness. This on-going process, and the results from the evaluations, help to shape what future prevention and intervention training will look like and validate its quality and impact.
"It's important we take a regimented and phased approach to integrating training," Bigelman said. "This training will make a difference in the lives of Soldiers and their Families. It's important we get it right."
The first version of the new training module was recently shared with select groups of Soldiers from both the active and reserve components.
The team of experts observed execution of the training module in a natural environment with Soldiers. Researchers and analysts from the WRAIR were also present to capture feedback, collect surveys and identify areas for improvement.
The team then incorporated the feedback, updated the content and began the process again, ultimately leading to a revised, final product, which can be released Army-wide.
"It's important that the Soldiers not only like the training and were engaged, but that they actually learned something from the training and are better able to take action on that knowledge," said Dr. Toby Elliman, research psychologist for the Research Transition Office, WRAIR.
The delivery of the content is important to knowledge attainment and retention, too.
"We don't want to put out another 'check-the-box' training requirement," Bigelman said. "What we found after speaking with the Soldiers, who received the training, was that this new module gave them the opportunity to dialogue with their peers and think for themselves, which is exactly what we were looking for," he said.
Integrating prevention and resilience training is critical to helping Soldiers, Army civilians and Family members make the link between counterproductive behaviors and the escalation of those behaviors. This process will also result in a reduction of training requirements and the time it takes to deliver that training.
"The prevention and intervention training that is currently offered is stovepiped and takes more than five hours to complete. As a result of integrating the training, we'll be able to bring the completion time down to about two hours, while also making the training more impactful for Soldiers," Bigelman said.
The integrated training is still under development, and there will be more red teams and beta testing. But Bigelman said the wait is worth it. "This is the first step toward improving prevention and intervention training so that it is more effective for Soldiers. We're not quite there yet, but we're quickly moving in the right direction," he said.