For USASOC, taking care of Soldiers is job one

By Sgt. Kyle Fisch, USASOC Public AffairsAugust 4, 2016

FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- The Army is always on the lookout for newer, more innovative ways to take care of Soldiers and their families who may need help dealing with traumatic events.

These types of resources can be crucial for Soldiers or family members experiencing symptoms of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) or depression due to trauma and in this aspect, the U.S. Army Special Operations Command is taking the initiative.

USASOC is currently implementing the R2T program (Responses to Trauma), a course designed to specifically target an afflicted person's trauma (the cause), rather than the effects (PTSD, etc.).

"R2T is a U.S. Army Special Operations Command family programs initiative," said Angela Latham, USASOC Director of Family Programs. "SOCOM (Special Operations Command) received funding from congress to come up with a program that is not currently being funded by any government agency or outside agency, to help (Special Operations Forces) Soldiers and their family members. So under the Preservation of the Force and Family (POTFF) we decided to investigate the STAR (Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience) program and see how we could mold it into a military-oriented program."

Some of the Army's current services such as SHARP (Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention), the Ready and Resilient Campaign, and cognitive-behavioral therapy, are generally geared towards treating the effects/aftermath of a person's trauma.

"I felt like there needed to be a program that addressed trauma," said Elizabeth Snyder, co-founder of the R2T program. "Even though there are some Army resiliency programs out there, they don't really talk about the trauma itself."

Latham attended a program called the STAR program out of Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, where she met Snyder, with whom she discussed the development of a similar military-oriented program.

"The STAR program was developed after 9/11 and it was often being used for first responders and folks here, but it has also been used in third-world countries," Latham said. "So I attended that training about a year ago, where I met Elizabeth (Snyder). We both put our heads together and agreed that this was a program we can mold to use for Special Operations Soldiers and their families."

Inspired by the STAR program, Snyder explains that R2T is a five-day educational program focused on understanding trauma, how it impacts individuals, and how it impacts the community. A program specially designed for Soldiers and their families.

"I remember I was very impressed (with the STAR program) because I thought of all the trauma-related courses that I had taken over the course of my career, and this was the one that I believed was really going to speak to a military audience and get them to do some of that hard work of facing their own trauma," Snyder said.

"The program is still in its infancy, so we are really just trying to get the word out about it. So far, we have had a wide variance of people who have attended," Latham said. "We've had male and female spouses, as well as operators, support personnel, chaplains, civilians, and members of our Care Coalition Team, so we've had some success with it."

Latham explains that the groups are separated by gender, and trained separately because their research and experience has proven this method to be more effective and more comfortable for the trainees.

"The first pilot program was held in May of last year," Latham said. "We ran a total of four pilot programs and made adjustments after each iteration based on the feedback we got from the participants until we ended up with R2T as it is today."

In order to measure the success of this new program, Latham says they are working with an outside agency preparing a longitudinal study to gather sufficient data that will quantify the program's success.

"Currently we offer two classes a month locally (at Fort Bragg) and we pay for people to come here TDY (Temporary Duty) from SOF units across the country," Latham said. "Starting in fiscal year 2017, we will start traveling to various installations and taking this training to our other units across the country."

At the moment, the program is exclusive to Special Operations Forces, but Snyder and Latham both wish for this program to be used across the military spectrum in the future.

"Ultimately I hope that AFSOC (Air Force Special Operations Command), MARSOC (Marine Special Operations Command), and the conventional sides of all branches pick up this program," Latham said. "We want to be able to offer any empty seats to the 82nd (Airborne Division) and to XVIII Airborne Corps, and any other conventional units across the DoD (Department of Defense)."