Enduring effort focuses on spiritual readiness

By Scott Prater, Fort Carson Public Affairs OfficeJuly 6, 2021

Enduring effort focuses on spiritual readiness
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – FORT CARSON, Colo. — Command Sgt. Maj. Adam Nash, 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson, talks to Soldiers during a breakout session June 28, 2021, during the Spiritual Readiness Pilot event at McMahon Auditorium. (Photo Credit: Scott Prater) VIEW ORIGINAL
Enduring effort focuses on spiritual readiness
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – FORT CARSON, Colo. — Maj. Gen. Thomas Solhjem, Army chief of chaplains, explains the vision of the Spiritual Readiness Pilot during day two of the event at McMahon Auditorium June 28, 2021. (Photo Credit: Scott Prater) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT CARSON, Colo. — Fort Carson hosted a collaborative spiritual readiness event this week, where Soldiers, commanders, chaplains and helping-agency professionals learned how spirituality enhances personal well-being and increases resiliency across formations.

Spiritual fitness involves an individual’s connection to purpose, guiding values and to others, and is one of the five dimensions of holistic health along with physical, emotional, social and mental.

Spiritual readiness professionals from Army chief of chaplains, Army Behavioral Health and Columbia University partnered with the Mountain Post to share their knowledge, expertise and wisdom about pivotal topics that affect most everyone, but especially Soldiers.

Maj. Gen. Thomas Solhjem, Army chief of chaplains, and the driving force behind the Spiritual Readiness Pilot, explained the Army is facing unprecedented, generationally imposed challenges — instances of suicide, depression, substance abuse and misuse, behavioral addictions and other harmful behaviors are rising in today’s ranks, especially among those ages 18-25.

The Spiritual Readiness Pilot is an effort to combat these negative trends. The pilot program is a traveling training system for Soldiers, commanders and helping-agency professionals. The Mountain Post training session included three days of seminars focused on training and discussions.

Dr. Lisa Miller, a professor of clinical psychology at Columbia University and a keynote speaker during the event, said humans are inherently spiritual, regardless of religious affiliation and those who practice spiritual behaviors often have more positive outcomes.

“Miller provides the science behind spirituality and shows that it does make a difference for protective factors,” said Lt. Col. Jon Knoedler, chaplain, 4th Infantry Division. “Having a sense of spirituality lowers those rates of suicide, depression, substance abuse and high-risk behaviors among people.”

Maj. Gen. Matthew W. McFarlane, commanding general, 4th Inf. Div. and Fort Carson, was instrumental in bringing the event to the Mountain Post and even addressed brigade breakout sessions during day two.

“This isn’t a train-the-trainer program,” he said. “This is part of our ‘People First’ initiative as we strive to help counsel and develop our Soldiers to not only succeed in the Army but succeed in life.”

Command Sgt. Maj. Adam Nash, senior enlisted leader, 4th Inf. Div. and Fort Carson, joined McFarlane during the breakout sessions and highlighted the Army’s Five Dimensions of Strength during his talk with brigade Soldiers.

“Once we started this endeavor to really get to know our people and this People First initiative, we began addressing every single one of these (dimensions) except for spiritual readiness,” Nash said. “When you think about physical, we get after that every day, social and Family — we’ve addressed that through different venues like our Soldier and Family Readiness Groups, exercising the golden triangle, and really getting near our Soldiers. The one avenue that we haven’t dove head-first into the deep end with is … spiritual readiness. It’s very tough to overcome if we don’t invest in that area.”

Contending that the words “spirituality” and “religion” can often shut some people down, McFarlane said the Spiritual Readiness Pilot effort isn’t about proselytizing, but about understanding how people can be better equipped to handle life’s downturns.

“Now, we have a scientific connection with what our purpose is, and we’ll have good discussions, but I ask you to be open minded throughout the session,” McFarlane said. “If you look at purpose, meaning and hope, those are all real things that most everyone needs.”

Col. Mark Stewart, senior command chaplain, 4th Inf. Div. and Fort Carson, indicated that while pilot leaders delivered a host of information and guidance during the training event, the pilot concept is intended to be an enduring effort for Fort Carson leaders and local collaborators.

“Increasing readiness is the goal,” he said. “It’s our hope that this will be part of the battle rhythm for units. We’ll have systems in place and reoccurrences throughout the weeks, months and years, but we also want to increase opportunities for cross referrals, like through Army Community Service, behavioral health, military family life consultants and other vital resources.”