PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. (March 8, 2022) – After six weeks of classroom training on resiliency, Soldiers assigned to the 229th Military Intelligence Battalion hit Carmel Beach on March 6 for a workout.
The event, Griffin Grit, is the capstone to Griffin Mindset, a chaplain-led class that helps Soldiers learn how to build resiliency. The 40-minute workout had Soldiers in and out of the water, up and down the dunes and back and forth across the beach as the late afternoon sun began to set behind the ocean. By the end, Soldiers used words such as “great,” “fun” and “fantastic” to describe the experience.
Chaplain (Capt.) Jordan Dersch, the 229th MI Bn. chaplain who runs Griffin Mindset and Griffin Grit, said Griffin Grit is a highlight for him each quarter.
“It’s not the most rigorous workout you’ll ever have, but it’s good enough to make you feel uncomfortable, to maybe push [the Soldiers] out of their comfort zones, into the sand and water,” Dersch said. “You’re doing it with all of your battle buddies to really push you forward. We do the low crawl, high crawl, bear crawl up and down the dune. It’s really fun.”
Griffin Mindset meets for two hours a week for six weeks, and organizers hold Griffin Grit a week after the course graduation. While the battalion’s chaplains’ office runs the program, the classes are a 229th MI Bn. command program, and Lt. Col. Christopher Gin and Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Suppes, the battalion’s command team, did the workout with the Soldiers.
The 229th MI Bn. has seven companies, and Gin said that leadership from each company also participated.
“It’s part of our whole battalion resiliency program,” Gin said. “We’ve been doing this for about a year now and it allows the Soldiers an opportunity to get out of the classroom, meet one another and then learn some life skills that are centered on the Army values. We’re really happy that the chaplains are leading it, but our whole staff really supports it.”
Dersch said most of the curriculum centers on the concept that not everything in life is within our control, but if we focus on taking positive actions on what we can control, we can reduce stress and increase success.
The idea behind Griffin Mindset is to reduce stress through mental readiness and spiritual readiness practices, Dersch said.
Suppes said he likes the fact that the classes show Soldiers how to make it through the tough times and take on increasingly difficult challenges.
“Throughout their careers, they will have a series of ups and downs and ebbs and flows,” Suppes said. “It’s just a matter of how you pass the tough times to enjoy the good times.”
Many of the approximately 30 Soldiers who participated have been in the Army for about a year. They are students at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center and the Presidio of Monterey is their first station after basic training. Several of the said they expect to use what they learned in the class not only in their Army careers but in life in general.
“What we do here is stressful, and most people look at stress as a bad thing. I know I did,” said Pvt. David Shumate. “It’s just something you avoid, but in Griffin Grit and Griffin Mindset, they teach you ways to look at stress as a good thing and you learn to use it to your advantage, and it’s helped me already.”
Pvt. 1st Class Randall Oreth-Leal said he was skeptical at the beginning of the class because he didn’t know if he would learn anything new, but he did. Most notably he learned to always keep going.
“I know it sounds simple, but I think there’s art and soul to it. Keep pushing,” Oreth-Leal said. “Keep going because that’s where the life is in the Army. It’s all about your mindset.”
Dersch said Griffin Grit was not always a mandatory part of Griffin Mindset, but Gin changed that, and the results have proved positive.
“People who might not have wanted to go out actually really enjoyed that they did,” Dersch said. “They change their perspective, really opening up their perspective and growing individually and professionally, mentally and spiritually. That’s our goal with it. That’s what Griffin Mindset is all about. That’s what Griffin Grit is.”
Dersch said the program supports the Army’s “H2F” initiative, which stands for “holistic health and fitness” and is outlined in Field Manual 7-22, which covers physical readiness training. The initiative’s goals are to optimize Soldier personal readiness; optimize physical and nonphysical performance; reduce injury rates; rapidly rehabilitate and recondition Soldiers; and improve overall Soldier and unit morale and effectiveness.
About a third of the battalion’s Soldiers take Griffin Mindset, Dersch said, and about 600 Soldiers have taken the class so far. The program encourages Soldiers to share what they have learned with other Soldiers. “A huge focus of it is peer-to-peer mentorship,” he said.
In addition, other installations that fall under U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command and U.S. Army Forces Command have used the program, Dersch said.
Dersch said the battalion falls under DLIFLIC, and he developed the concept for Griffin Grit with the DLIFLC chaplains’ office. In addition, Dersch thanked Spc. Darius Brown and Spc. Drequan Dowtin, religious affairs specialists, for their help putting together the event.
After the March 6 workout, Soldiers ran down the dune and farther into the water than they had during the workout, splashing as they went. While getting sandy and running into 51-degree water might not always qualify as a morale booster, it was this time.
“This was great,” said Spc. Anton Fritz. “This was fun. Normally my company doesn’t do PT on Mondays. It’s like an added session for me.”
Pvt. Marcus Adams agreed, calling the event “fantastic.” It was a fun way to teach the importance of pushing through difficulty, he said.
“The workout doesn’t get any easier, but as you put in the work and as you keep pushing through, you’ll find the reward,” Adams said. “You’ll be able to wash yourself off, get rid of all the muck you’ve built up over the course of your time here, or the time in your career, and you’ll be able to become stronger because of it.”