FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- The Army is continuing to enhance its warfighters with something more powerful than new artillery weapon systems, night vision scopes and expensive gadgets.
This fairly new program, the Army's "Master Resiliency Training Course," is part of Comprehensive Soldier Fitness. It is designed to enhance a Soldier's mettle, mind and mental thinking and focuses on the five dimensions of strength: emotional, social, spiritual, family and physical.
Three Soldiers from U.S. Army North and a civilian from U.S. Army Medical Command, along with 150 other personnel from around the Army, graduated from a 10-day course, March 18.
The graduates were taught, in cooperation with staff from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia the necessities to help train Soldiers, family members and civilians on ways to become more "Resilient" in the Army, lives and career.
The "Suck it up and drive on" mentality got some Soldiers to overcome their adversities, but that doesn't work for every situation or every Soldier.
"An accident, divorce or death is what it is," said Brig. Gen. Rhonda Cornum, Comprehensive Soldier Fitness director. "But it is how we come out of that event that can determine how we make ourselves a better person."
Through an initiative from Gen. George W. Casey Jr., Army Chief of Staff, the "Battlemind" training program was revamped last year to become the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program. The program is designed to help build Soldiers' core strengths of physical fitness, emotional awareness, social communications, family values and spiritual beliefs.
"Wars are no longer going to be won or lost by whoever has the fastest, biggest airplane," said Cornum. "They are going to be won by having the smartest, brightest people making the hardest, most difficult decisions in the most dangerous situations."
The Army's program, already about a year old, concentrates on the knowledge and skills necessary to overcome the extreme adversities Soldiers face, both in and out of the war zone.
Soldiers endure a rigorous physical fitness schedule in order to cope with harsh environments of Iraq and Afghanistan; but before this training, there was no program to teach Soldiers how to deal with stress, work, physical training, family, personal problems and multiple deployments.
Most importantly, it benefits Soldiers by teaching them they can be in control of their actions and thoughts during events that are extremely difficult to handle, said Sgt. 1st Class Alberto Hernandez, information technology specialist, Defense Coordinating Element, Region III (Philadelphia, Pa.), U.S. Army North.
"Becoming aware of our thoughts on events that happen in our life can provide different ways of reacting, whether to not overreact or not react at all," said Hernandez. "Therefore, old situations could have been handled better with a bit more communication and understanding, thus eliminating the possibility of escalation and creating a positive outcome of a potentially hazardous discussion."
The Soldiers and civilians who attended the training are all seasoned veterans of their crafts and have previous deployment experiences. Those traits prove invaluable to the program that continued to teach even the most experienced Soldiers something new about themselves.
"Simply put, I learned how to use my strong character strengths to motivate and influence Soldiers," said Staff Sgt. Richard Garcia, an Intelligence Analyst with ARNORTH. "At the same, time I realized how to identify my weaknesses, which will help me make better decisions when guiding Soldiers."
Garcia said he could see how what he learned at the course could help others at Army North. Taking the CSF motto "Strong Bodies, Strong Minds," Garcia will need additional help and resources in order to ensure this program is implemented and taught in all the units. The Army North command showed its resolve in this matter by sending a total of five Soldiers to the course to enhance the units' readiness to train these newly developed skills throughout the command.
"I think this will be really beneficial to use for training at the Contingency Command Posts, since it is a probability they are or will encounter some negative effects of natural disasters," said Garcia. "If you're not prepared to handle that kind of situation, it may have a downward spiral effect on a Soldier or civilian."
Ultimately, the benefit of the training is that Soldiers and civilians will build an internal strength enabling them to focus and react to situations more clearly with positive results.
The MRT program will teach Soldiers and civilians how to strengthen themselves which in turn will strengthen relationships with family, friends and co-workers leading to a better working environment and becoming a more productive work force, said MRT Dr. Karen Reivich, University of Pennsylvania, co-director of the Penn Resiliency Project and a research associate in the Positive Psychology Center.
This training will soon be incorporated at every level in the military schools and training curriculums, said Cornum. Soldiers at every level will ultimately learn how to adapt to difficult situations using tools and knowledge learned from the resiliency trainers, which will help them both through deployments and back home.
Resiliency training will also be added to pre- and post-deployment briefs. So those Soldiers who weren't able to get to the class will be able to receive a part of the training. Moreover, the leaders will in turn be able to instill the training in their Soldiers just as they did for the Warrior Ethos and Army Values.
Personnel who attended made a deep discovery about their own self-awareness. Before the course, a "character strengths" test is applied to help the student gain insight on what makes him or her so unique and so valuable to the Army team. Students take their most valued rated skill and apply it to everyday tasks to help them overcome adversities and focus on parts of situations that are controllable.
"I learned that the Army is moving in the right direction by providing their warriors with the tools and skills needed to become more self-aware and self-regulating," said Val Wilson, a battle mind training specialist at the Army Medical Department Center and School, Soldier and Family Support Branch. "I learned that although I possessed many of the skills, I really need to start making these skills a part of my daily life. It will not only make you a better person but make you a better communicator, a better person and someone that others would seek out for advice and counsel."
Wilson has already started incorporating those skills in his everyday life and daily training he conducts with Soldiers attending the school at his command.
The skills will allow individuals to learn how to control their thoughts and emotions, which in turn will help them better manage their personal and professional relationships, said Wilson. Once Warriors have the skills and tools to cope with the mental and emotional stressors that they face daily, they will eventually have better balance in their lives.
"The MRT training has been, by far, the best training experience I've ever had," said Garcia. "It is a solution to one the biggest puzzles in life - understanding who you really are."