As a leader, 1st Sgt. Katie Smith, C Co., 551st Signal Battalion, has handled her fair share of stressful incidents involving Soldiers. Thanks to a recent two-day training, the company first sergeant feels even more prepared to deal with future situations.
Fort Gordon's Army Substance Abuse Program conducted training as part of the Hidden in Plain Sight Campaign on Dec. 4-5, at the U.S. Army Reserve Center.
The purpose of the training was "to foster an environment that supports and develops Soldiers to perform at their optimal level both personally and professionally," said Karen Abraham, Risk Reduction Program coordinator, ASAP.
It was also intended to help command teams "build and sustain personal readiness and resilience."
The two-day training featured breakout sessions involving scenarios where participants had to identify resources that can help Soldiers become resilient when faced with stressful events; an interactive mock barracks room where leaders were challenged with identifying areas where items of concern might be hidden, identify paraphernalia, and identify household items that could be used as paraphernalia to conceal drugs; and an Escape Room where leaders had to identify clues that unlocked procedures for domestic and child abuse incidents.
Subject matter experts from Fort Gordon agencies including the Criminal Investigation Division, Better Opportunities for Single Service Members, Family Advocacy Program, Behavioral Health, the Family Life chaplain, Army Community Service, the Military and Family Life Consultant program, Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, and the Sexual Harassment Assault Response and Prevention program were on hand to brief and answer questions. It was another aspect of the training Smith found particularly useful.
"I think we might make too many assumptions about some of the programs that we're already familiar with, and getting a refresher helps remind us what's available -- specifically with our CID counterparts and what they can do to support us."
In one of the training scenarios, Abraham presented a situation where a commander's wife lost her job, their dog died, and a friend committed suicide -- all in the same week.
"That's a lot of issues that the commander is faced with, so he needed to be able to identify which resources that he can use," Abraham said.
Another scenario revolved around a Soldier who experienced date rape while on Holiday Block Leave, and it was up to her leaders to find her the help she needed.
"Soldiers could be going through multiple stressful events and their leader doesn't know," Abraham said. "It's up to the leaders to identify the warning signs and get them the help they need."
Inside the interactive mock barracks room, participants raced against a clock to search for and identify hidden paraphernalia -- a challenge Smith found to be "eye opening."
Abraham said that over time, Soldiers have learned and used techniques to hide paraphernalia that surprise even the most seasoned leaders.
" Things change, drugs change, [and] Soldiers get smarter," Abraham said. "It's important that our leaders remain vigilant and on top of these changes."
Smith said she was very enlightened by the training and highly recommends that her counterparts take it if given the opportunity.
"I thought it was excellent," Smith said. "Specifically, the way the training rooms were set up was very informative and also provided us somewhat of a challenge, which I think generates learning."
Leaders who are interested in receiving additional training on these topics may reach out to Abraham by calling 706-791-7860.
"Leaders need to be ahead of the game when it comes to Soldiers," Abraham said. "Being proactive and knowing what resources are available -- not waiting until the incident happens then react -- that builds resiliency."