Soldiers assigned to the Schofield Barracks Soldier Recovery Unit, Hawaii, attended a Mental Toughness class in August. (Photo courtesy of Carol Hickman)
Soldiers assigned to the Schofield Barracks Soldier Recovery Unit, Hawaii, attended a Mental Toughness class in August. (Photo courtesy of Carol Hickman) (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

ARLINGTON, Va. — What does it take to become mentally tough?

This is the very question that Soldiers at the Schofield Barracks Soldier Recovery Unit in Hawaii are exploring during a weekly class.

Mental Toughness is offered through a partnership between the SRU’s adaptive reconditioning program and the R2 Performance Center. Participants learn about a variety of resiliency topics such as growth mindset, sleep hygiene and deliberate breathing.

The partnership started in June and the class is held every Wednesday. Carol Hickman, adaptive reconditioning support specialist at the Schofield Barracks SRU, said master resiliency trainers usually teach the discussion-based class in which Soldiers can share their experiences with these skills.

So what is a Mental Toughness class like? Hickman described it as a positive environment where attendees share strategies for coping and handling challenges that many find relatable. It’s usually easygoing and offers an hour of positive and relaxed conversations, she said.

She noted a number of benefits, like the ability to process and move through different resiliency skills with people facing similar circumstances.

“It builds up camaraderie and makes Soldiers in the SRU feel like they are not alone in the struggles that come with recovery,” she said.

For Hickman, the best part is that it provides a safe space for Soldiers to share experiences.

“It seems like a lot of bonds are formed through the class and those in attendance feel like they get a chance to learn from and support others in a similar position to them,” she said.

Breaking the ice can be challenging. Hickman said that there are times when participants aren’t comfortable conversing. In those moments, the MRTs or AR staff talk about their experiences as a way to encourage sharing. Once a discussion picks up, quite a few are willing to join in.

Some classes focus on skills that may not be relevant to everyone, but Mental Toughness has a broader appeal. Hickman said that these skills are beneficial for everyone.

“So many of the obstacles we have to accomplishing our goals are at least in some part mental, so being able to think our way through these things has positive outcomes for all of us,” she said.

Maj. Tiffany Walton is a Soldier assigned to the Schofield Barracks SRU and a Mental Toughness class attendee. She explained that the class teaches how to become mentally tougher and handle the “ups and downs” that are part of life. She described it as an interactive class where attendees talk about challenges they share in common or experienced during their careers in the military. A great deal of emphasis is placed on the psychology of pain and managing it effectively, she said.

“This class has really helped me think outside the box when it comes to pain management,” Walton said.

Mental Toughness appears to be one of those classes for which all the benefits can’t be captured in its description. Walton said that there are many benefits available to those who have an open mind and are prepared to participate. For her, the one with the highest significance is being able to strengthen the mind, which she views as the human body’s most important part.

Those thinking about taking the class should, and they won’t be disappointed, she said.

“They’d enjoy both the class and participating; all while learning mental toughness strategies,” she said.

The Army Warrior Care and Transition Program is now the Army Recovery Care Program. Although the name has changed, the mission remains the same: to provide quality complex case management to the Army's wounded, ill and injured Soldiers.