FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Installation family advocacy and chaplaincy officials hosted training designed to increase the resiliency of the Fort Rucker community for almost 50 people at Wings Chapel recently.
While the two-day Adverse Childhood Experiences and Trauma Informed Care: Building Resiliency training was held for people who respond to incidents such as domestic violence, child abuse, and sexual assault within the community, family advocacy program and chaplaincy officials would like to offer it up to all members of the community in the future, according to Luticia Trimble-Smith, Fort Rucker Army Community Service Family Advocacy Program manager.
Attendees for this round included representatives from behavioral health at Lyster Army Health Clinic, the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response Prevention Program, the installation sexual assault response coordinator, the chaplaincy’s unit ministry teams, ACS, Criminal Investigation Command and leadership from advanced individual training, she added.
The training, facilitated by Pamela Miles, Change My Mind Consulting, certified trauma informed counseling trainer and also executive director of the Exchange Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse in Dothan, was designed to help attendees gain the knowledge they need to provide trauma informed care, Trimble-Smith said.
“The main objective was to understand how adverse childhood experiences impact people’s overall life development experiences and how they impact people physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally, socially and financially – in all aspects of their lives,” she said. “It also helped us understand how brain development can be impacted by adverse childhood experiences.”
Attendees also learned risk factors associated with ACEs, behavioral symptoms of childhood trauma, and used the ACEs assessment tool to gauge their own level of childhood trauma, Trimble-Smith added.
“This allowed us to see for ourselves whether or not we had a high enough score that would indicate that we had trauma. The average score in the room was 3 out of 10, so that was kind of a low number. But if you were to have a group that involved family members or Soldiers or entire communities that number would definitely go up,” she said. “While we can assume that most people have not experienced trauma up to age 18, we can also assume that more than a few have experienced some kind of trauma and might score a 5 or higher – 10 is the highest score. The further up you go, the more at risk you are.
“She shared a wealth of knowledge with us, including statistics on the correlation between high ACES scores and suicide – it was alarming,” she said, adding that 67% of all suicide attempts are linked to an ACES score of 4 or higher.
The entire two-day session proved quite valuable, according to Chaplain (Col.) Bob Crowley, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence chaplain.
“The training helped unit ministry team members understand ACEs’ impacts on Soldiers and family members. In understanding these impacts, chaplains can have pastoral care and counseling strategies to meet many needs,” Crowley said. “I felt that the training would be beneficial prior to the chief of chaplains’ Spiritual Readiness Training, which is scheduled for early next year in Fort Rucker.”
The training event was also an excellent opportunity for UMT members to interact with ACS and behavioral health personnel, he added.
“It takes a multi-disciplined approach to combat many of the ACEs that children or adults experience. Clinicians and chaplains should be acquainted with it in order to work hand in hand to help Soldiers and family members,” Crowley said. “It is difficult enough just to be in a rigorous and demanding career such as the Army. If there are other problems from childhood, we can help to have a more positive stance as far as readiness is concerned.”
“As people who are working with families, the family advocacy program mission is to prevent and intervene in situations involving domestic abuse, child abuse and problematic sexual behavior in children and youth, so we are required by (Department of Defense) regulation to ensure that our staff is trauma informed and educated,” she said. “This training helps us when we are working with individuals who are in a crisis already – we’re looking that them through a trauma informed lens and we will be more aware of the need to not cross boundaries with them and not judge them. It helps us connect more with them and for them connect back with us as we are trying to assist them.”
Those attending thought highly of the training, as well, according to Trimble-Smith.
“We collected 37 course evaluations and all but one said that they would recommend this training for their colleagues or other co-workers,” she said.
A sampling of the evaluations revealed people complimenting Miles’ presentation, and also the value of the information provided.
“ACEs is a new term for me – this was fantastic information” wrote one attendee.
“ACEs studies provided research data to what I already believed to be true,” wrote another.
“I had never heard of ACEs before, but I honestly think this is something that should be taught and briefed to Soldiers,” wrote another.
Trimble-Smith said ACS would let people know if the class becomes open to the community.
For more information on family advocacy, or for people who need help, call 255-3898. The 24/7 domestic violence hotline is available by calling 334-379-7947. The family life chaplain is available at 255-3447.