By Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy, National Guard BureauJune 9, 2010
ARLINGTON, Va. - Building resiliency among Army National Guard members starts even before a new recruit is sent to basic training.
About a decade ago, the Army Guard established the Recruit Sustainment Program as a way to better prepare new enlistees for the rigors of basic training. The program focuses on introducing recruits to physical training, map reading, drill and ceremony, the rank structure and other activities they would be exposed to in basic training.
Now, that program also focuses on building coping mechanisms and resiliency skills among new recruits.
"The Army National Guard, I think, is at the forefront as far as trying to (work) with Soldiers and make sure they have a good quality of life while they serve and beyond that," said Army Maj. Reginald Barnes, chief of the Resiliency and Risk Reduction Branch here at the ARNG Readiness Center.
The goal, said Barnes, is to give recruits the skills needed to bounce back from stressful or traumatic situations.
"Some Soldiers come to us with all those skills and dimensions already taken care of," he said. "But then, you have the few that don't have that kind of support or skills already in place. Those who have it already, it enhances what they already have, and those who are coming to us who don't already have it ... develop this and are ready, not only for basic training, but also for life in general."
Though the program hasn't been fully implemented in each state yet, Barnes said that in the states where the program is being run the response has been "very positive."
He added that plans are in place to set up the program in each state and territory later this year.
"Not only are we trying to make them proficient and prepared for basic training and Advanced Individual Training, but also to have the life skills and the coping skills to do better," said Barnes. "Part of that package is resilience. Resiliency is the ability to bounce back from different stressors, life events and traumas when they come into our lives."
Barnes said he sees this program as a holistic approach to training and readiness.
"For so long, we focused on the physical part, the APFT (Army Physical Fitness Test). We focused on someone being proficient in whatever weapon or equipment they operate. Now, we get to focus on the individual a little bit more," he said. "Now, we have the complete package of mind, body and soul - for lack of a better word. Now, we have a complete Soldier, and a more holistic approach, as far as how we address Soldiers and how we take care of them."
The focus on building resiliency starts with new recruits, but soon it will be incorporated into leadership courses and other training.
"It's a life cycle," said Barnes. "It's not only for our new recruits, but eventually it's going to be in the officer education system, the noncommissioned officer education system - any kind of training we get.
"It will just be different levels or echelons of training that they get. But we want to make sure we can be a ready and resilient force in everything we do."