By Katherine Rosario, Fort Riley Public AffairsAugust 13, 2010
FORT RILEY, Kan. - More than 20 spouses spent four days in an intensive resilience training program that gave them the tools and coaching needed to help Soldiers and Families handle the effects of deployments.
The Resilient Spouse Academy, which was open to all spouses, taught participants how to handle finances, domestic violence and someone considering suicide, through a variety of videos, guest speakers, breakout groups and role playing sessions.
"It's the reality of the fight that we are currently in," said Col. Kevin Brown, Fort Riley garrison commander, explaining that resilience training is needed to help watch out for signs of Soldiers in stress.
Patricia Verschage, an academy attendee said, "One of the reasons why we do this is our Soldiers come home from their battle and our spouses are the ones that have the first eyes on them. This is to help us help them."
Brig. Gen. David Petersen, 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley deputy commanding general - rear, said he needed spouses to be "sensors for the Army."
"In this Army, transition is more the norm than the exception. The challenge will be, as we identify more folks that have potential issues, we need to do the right thing - put our arms around those Soldiers and keep our promise and make sure that we're taking care of them," he said.
Darla Griffith, a guest speaker, spoke to the spouses about a time she used her Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training to identify a Soldier in need of help and used training to assist him.
"We aren't experts; it just gives you a sensitivity as to where someone might be at and when you are put in a situation to do a suicide intervention, that workshop information is invaluable," Griffith said.
Cherie Cain, mobilization and personal readiness branch manager for Army Community Service, said she hopes to see this class offered on a regular basis.
"To our knowledge this is the first one (Resilient Spouse Academy) that's ever been done. We incorporate the ASIST training, financial readiness, master resilience training, substance abuse and domestic violence. A little bit of everything that Families deal with on a day-to-day basis to give them some tools to guide them in the right direction," she said.
"Resiliency starts at home and in a networked community that cares. We want to make sure that the Resilient Spouse Academy is that place that it starts at. It's the place that networks that really gets out there. It's the sensors and that reaching out and touching somebody else to make it a bigger community that we're all big one Family to help each other out," Cain said.
Dee Thurman, wife of Gen. James D. Thurman, commander U.S. Army Forces Command in Fort McPherson, Ga., visited the spouses at the academy during their breakout sessions on Wednesday.
"This is exactly what we need across the board, she said, adding it would be a hit at Fort Hood where spouses experience back-to-back deployments.
She has to hold back tears when she sees military spouses struggling, Thurman said.
"I know they're having a tough time and shame on us for not being there sooner," she said.
The academy has three more sessions scheduled for spouses. Session dates are Aug. 23-27, Sept. 13-17 and Oct. 18-22.