STUTTGART, Germany -- Adapting to change and recovering from adversity are vital skills that service members and their families can learn.

To help foster resilience in the Stuttgart military community, the U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Religious Support Office hosted an in-service training day for professionals working with military populations March 4.

The training, titled "Strengthening Resilience in Soldiers and Families," was funded through combined chapel tithes and offerings.

The class was taught by Dr. Becky Powell, director of religious education for the USAG Baden-Wuerttemberg Chaplain's Office, and guest speaker Dr. Paulette Martinez Bethel, founder of Land On Your Feet, LLC, a consultancy dedicated to helping military and expatriate families successfully adjust to new cultures and environments. Powell has also provided resiliency training to USAG Kaiserslautern for three years.

The training provided professionals with resources and skills "to reach out and provide support, information and knowledge; to rebuild [resiliency] if it's been lost; strengthen it, if it's already there, and overcome adversity," Bethel said.

Thirty-four people attended, including school psychologists and counselors, parents, Military Family Life Consultants and leaders in religious education.

"Most of the people at the workshop work with adolescents," said Jim Sciegel, USAG Stuttgart religious education director. "That became the focus - how [to] help kids work with resiliency. It's a critical topic for us."

During the class, Bethel and Powell discussed practical ways for participants to help children become more resilient.

One method is to build "social scaffolding," also known as a support network, Powell said.
Trusted adults can impact a young person's "scaffold" by investing in their lives and introducing them to positive role models and friends, she added.

The practical application was important for training participants Corrie Butz and Cody Salomon, who work with Child, Youth and School Services.

Butz, the director of the Panzer School Age Services and Youth Services, said she learned the importance of reaching out to other organizations for help.

"If I see a youth who is struggling, I can connect [him or her] with a Military Family Life Consultant or school counselor ... instead of just keeping it within our own organization," Butz said.

Salomon, a CYS Services child and youth program assistant, is already planning to adjust the way newcomers are greeted. "We get a lot of teens just coming to the center; they walk in to look at what we have to offer," he said. "One quick thing [I can do] is take them and introduce them to beneficial friends ... people that can help them hold up."

On March 5, trainers Bethel and Powell also gave a presentation to 15 youth ministry workers from throughout Europe.

Nick Laurenzana, one of three USAG Stuttgart chapel youth leaders in attendance, said the training gave him a new perspective on the emotional and psychological stress military adolescents go through during a move or a parent's deployment. "It's just a lot of weight," he said.

He also said he realized how youth ministry helps teens become more resilient by providing a setting in which to talk to trusted adults, peers and God.

"What we do has a bigger impact on a student than just spiritual impact," he said. "We're giving them tools for post-traumatic growth during some of the most difficult times in life."

Due to the positive feedback from the event, Sciegel said the RSO will provide the training annually, and plans to add more content for parents.

"At this point, we've made a commitment to Dr. Powell that next year will be Season 2," he said.