Resiliency training in Iraq keeps Soldiers strong

By Spc. Samuel Soza, USD-S Public Affairs OfficeMay 1, 2010

COB BASRA, Iraq -- An effective Soldier is trained with the skills necessary for the mission, such as first aid and weapons expertise. But, in addition to these tactical proficiencies, Soldiers have to be prepared for the emotional and mental stress of being deployed away from home.

The Army has designated master resiliency trainers to make certain Soldiers are so prepared.

"I go on a battle circulation and I teach resiliency skills, which are coping skills," said Master Sgt. Katrina Carter, a master resiliency trainer with the 1st Infantry Division surgeon section, deployed to Contingency Operating Base Basra, Iraq.

"Resiliency is being able to bounce back from adversity," said the St. Louis, Mo. native, "It's a way of thinking."

Trainers are taught to address five pillars of resiliency: physical, spiritual, familial, emotional, and social. The pillars are just that: sources of support that master resiliency trainers can help Soldiers develop to better prepare and sustain them through their deployments, said Carter.

"Soldiers have so much going on - here, in Iraq, but also back at home," she said. "We want Soldiers to be able to continue their mission and deal with their daily lives, because if a Soldier's home life is not going well, they're not going to do well on their mission."

One of the skills taught is called 'put it in perspective' and involves taking the common initial worst-case scenario assumptions and countering them with a best-case scenario, said Carter.

As an example, Carter offered a hypothetical situation: a Soldier calls a loved one back at home, but reaches no one and immediately assumes it is because they are doing something behind the Soldier's back.

By re-imagining that scenario as the loved one having won the lottery and off buying a new house and car, the Soldier can see how both the best- and worst-case scenarios are equally unbelievable, she said.

From there, the Soldier can see the issue from a more balanced viewpoint and develop a plan of action, she said.

First Infantry Division Soldiers are trained in these types of skills at the Resiliency Campus back at their home station in Fort Riley, Kan.

A similar facility is scheduled to open at COB Basra in July or August, said Carter.

"Each pillar is going to have a section set up for it," said Carter, "The goal is to increase resiliency and enhance performance by developing the five dimensions."

This includes fitness and nutrition tools, literature, video chat capabilities, quiet rooms for meditation, as well as mental health advisors and counselors.

"The best thing about this training for me is that the Soldier gets results," said Carter, "They can take something away from it. My goal is the give them the tools so they can utilize them."

Related Links:

Comprehensive Soldier Fitness