WASHINGTON (Army News Service, March 15, 2010) -- The deadline is approaching for Soldiers to complete the Global Assessment Tool, part of a new Army-wide holistic initiative focused on building resilience: Comprehensive Soldier Fitness.

By May 31, commanders must ensure all Soldiers have completed the mandatory, confidential 240-question survey, Army officials said.

Incorporating physical, emotional, social, family and spiritual strength, Comprehensive Soldier Fitness was created to enhance performance and build Soldiers' resilience. The Global Assessment Tool, or GAT, helps work toward resilient Soldiers by forcing them to take a closer look at their emotional health, and what can be improved on.

Defined as the "ability to grow and thrive in the face of challenges and bounce back from adversity," resilience for Soldiers is essential in an environment of persistent conflict, said Brig. Gen. Rhonda Cornum, director of the CSF program. Traditionally, the Army has invested much into ensuring troops are physically fit, but this program touches all the dimensions of an individual's personal development.

"Resilience is the ability to both go through adverse experiences without letting it negatively affect you, and also the ability to bounce back faster," said Cornum.

And she should know. One of only two female Soldiers taken prisoner during the Persian Gulf War, Cornum survived a helicopter crash and was taken captive to later go on to write a book, become a urologist, earn a Ph.D., and be promoted to the rank of general.

Cornum stressed that not every Soldier is the same; each has unique experiences and needs. She gave the example of a tennis ball. Most tennis balls when thrown against a wall will bounce back, Cornum explained. But some, if they are low on air, or have been left outside in the weather, won't. CSF is geared toward giving Soldiers as much 'bounce' as possible, she said.

"We are giving everybody the opportunity to realize their maximum potential," Cornum explained.

Also tied into CSF is the Master Resilience Trainer program. Currently housed at the University of Pennsylvania, plans are underway to begin a branch of the school at Fort Jackson, S.C., in April and eventually move the course to Victory University there. For now, the course will continue to run parallel at both campuses, until enough MRT teachers can be trained.

"Ultimately we will be doing this 150 people at a time at Fort Jackson," Cornum said.

With 622 Master Resilience Trainers already certified, the end-game plan is to have every drill and platoon sergeant qualified as MRTs. Short-term, Cornum said the goal of one MRT per battalion in the Army will be achieved by the end of this fiscal year.

"It's a deliberate way to imbue the force with those Army-strong values," she explained.

Department of the Army civilians and military family members are not being left out of this comprehensive approach -- versions of both the GAT and the MRT program have been created for those supporting Soldiers, and will be implemented in the near future.