U.S. Army Soldiers are constantly training to be stronger physically and mentally to be fit for service. Recently Soldiers of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division Task Force Reserve, pushed to be stronger in a way that can be neglected while learning new approaches in mentoring, beginning on December 17, 2019. The Connection Life Purpose System (CLPS) aims to teach Soldiers how to foster healthy connections in their unit. U.S. Army Capt. Bill Fry, the chaplain for 1/25 SBCT Task Force Reserve, led the training to help leaders learn the ins and outs of the system so that it could be incorporated into their training plans.
"The purpose of CLPS is to provide a holistic health training that focuses on wellness versus suicide prevention," he said. "We touch a little bit on ACE (Ask, Care, Escort) training, then we take the focus off of the prevention of death and focus on the promotion of life through relationships."
The origins of this training date back to a program that started at the Waterfront Rescue Mission, a rehabilitation facility located in Pensacola, Florida. It was at this facility that the program named New Hope Home was started. Fry started working on this program, which eventually evolved into CLPS. The groundwork of promoting life through relationships is a key tenant to the program's success, according to the chaplain.
"We first started this program at the rehab clinic I was working at." he said. "The major problems were depression, anxiety, and hopelessness. Those are common problems with addicts in recovery. This model helped create more positive spiritual and mental health for our clients then."
After joining the Army, Fry started to use this program to improve the lives of Soldiers in his care. While serving as the chaplain for 5th Squadron 4th Cavalry Regiment at Fort Riley, Kansas, the program was implemented within the command. Fry spoke on the formal introduction of this training to the Army.
"This was a collaborative effort with the commander of the 5-4 Cav, starting in late 2012 and we initiated it over an 18 month period," he said.
During this time, Fry stated that the overall mental health of the force significantly improved.
Later in his career Chaplain Fry again applied the program while assigned to Fort Bliss's Warrior Transition Unit. Due to the program's repeated success at this location, Chaplain Fry was recognized as the Witherspoon Chaplain of the year.
The training is focused on teaching leaders and Soldiers how to forge stronger relationships with those around them, as well as finding a purpose for themselves. Fry explained how leaders at Fort Wainwright should apply the system.
"This training empowers and equips leaders to be more thorough than the standard of coaching, mentoring and counseling," he said. "We're trying to teach interaction and empathy. Good leadership comes alongside Soldiers. You sweat with them, you laugh with them, and cry with them. That empathy truly allows a leader to lead by example. I hope that leaders will come away with knowing the importance of healthy connections, as well as finding the healthy connections in the lives of their Soldiers. From that they will be able to lead in activities that will build community and camaraderie."
The chaplain explained that this is not a new concept, rather a reminder for those who may have forgotten where their feelings of self-worth come from.
"We're just repackaging something that has been around since the beginning of civilization. People do better when we have a healthy spiritual life, healthy relationships, and a life purpose...that concept has been around since the beginning of time."
Through this training program Chaplain Fry hopes to replicate the same positive results with 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.