JOINT BASE LEWIS MCCHORD, Wash. (November 17, 2016)
Members of the 17th Field Artillery Brigade, 256 Signal Company stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington participated in team building exercises run by the local Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness (CSF2) Training Center on Oct. 25, 2016.
"I learned that communication is key, especially in a Signal Company," said Spec. Heather Smith. Smith was one of a dozen Soldiers who participated in the training, which was designed to strengthen functioning teams.
Research shows that cohesion is a major factor in the performance of teams. Building stronger teams leads to better performances, making the team or unit better able to accomplish missions and maintain readiness.
Smith says her job, which consists of working with teammates to connect satellites, routers, tunnels and switches, may save someone's life, as her team is responsible for establishing secure and non-secure Internet and phone lines for those they are supporting. "There's a lot of back-and-forth," she said. "Teamwork and being able to trust each other is very important."
The training consisted of four hands-on exercises that began with little to no instruction on how to complete the task. The Soldiers were then empowered and encouraged to work together, and often used trial-and-error to solve the problem.
Following each exercise the Soldiers discussed what they learned.
"Trust each other, communicate and listen," one Soldier said.
"We need leadership," another said.
"I learned I need to be a follower sometimes," another Soldier said.
For 2nd Lt. Kristina Cortes, a Signal Officer, actively working at team building is critical because "the risks always become higher and the stakes always become higher, and it gets harder and harder to trust people."
One of the team building activities, "Marbles", requires the team to move marbles through an obstacle course without touching the floor. The Soldiers were provided with some materials and given no additional instruction. According to the trainer, one Soldier, a private, figured out the solution 20 minutes before the rest of the team. He didn't speak up, and the team became frustrated.
"The purpose of this activity is to see if you are willing to listen to other people who have ideas; are you willing to do trial and error and be part of the team, and not give up easily" said Caitlyn Jordan, a Master Resilience Trainer-Performance Expert with the CSF2 Training Center who was leading the team building exercises. "With these activities we are trying to push the boundaries mentally and then tie the experience back to the Army."
As a leader, Cortes quickly realized the take-away of the exercise.
"When new Soldiers come to the team, some may have more experience than others or some may have a different [Military Occupational Specialty]. But when you put the marbles on the floor, and no one knows what to do, it helps the Soldiers build a team and also give them the opportunity to take a leadership role," Cortes said.
Jordan, who has worked with the Signal Company approximately 10 times since March, hopes these team building exercises help the Soldiers choose to have a growth mindset, and be willing to develop and learn, and see challenges and failure as an opportunity to grow rather than plateauing.
"We choose our thoughts every day. And if these Soldiers choose to wake up in the morning and be a better version of themselves, they'll improve and their team will improve along with them," Jordan said.
Jordan, and the rest of her teammates at the CSF2 Training Center, have the ability to tailor team building training based on the needs of an Army unit or team. They can structure sessions to address challenges the team may face with daily tasks and further enhance team cohesion.
"Doing exercises like these shows me that I can trust my team and helps to build that rapport," Cortes said. "Trust is a big part of the Army."
CSF2 Training Centers are located at 25 Army installations. To see how you can get team building tailored to your unit or team, contact them at http://csf2.army.mil/training-centers.html