By Sgt. 1st Class Aljournal FranklinApril 21, 2011
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- How do you know that your resiliency program is dialed in and working' When Soldiers openly talk about having issues and escort others to programs where they can get treatment. You also know it's working when you spend $350,000 less than before.
The 4th Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment hosts such a program. It wasn't always that way. In early June 2009, while the Army was designing its program, the leadership of 4-10 and the 171st Infantry Brigade sat down to discuss the health of their Soldiers. Recent survey results clearly showed two things.
Forty percent were struggling with deployment-related issues and more than 20 percent clearly stated that they would not come forward and seek help because they were convinced that any reference to Behavioral Health issues was equivalent to the "Kiss of Death" for their careers. There was a "code of silence" surrounding emotional/mental issues and the risk indicators were off the charts.
There was certainty among many senior leaders that unless the status quo changed, it was not a question of "if" but only a matter of "when" we would lose a Soldier. We were also spending a lot of money. We spent more than $400,000 sending Soldiers to outside treatment facilities as far away as Alabama, Virginia and Texas.
Almost two years later, we have a 12-month treatment cost of $50,000 and now have Soldiers talking openly about treatment, both formal and informal support groups meeting and referring friends and an open partnership with Moncrief Army Community Hospital's Traumatic Brain Injury and Behavioral Health clinics.
Here is how it happened.
The program uses a "Cargo Net Effect" to communicate across several functional areas and between several levels of leadership. Spiritual, physical and mental experts are put together to provide training and treatment. As with many things in life, the key is teamwork. An established, functional team can accomplish just about anything. As resiliency NCO, I led the team. The battalion portion of the team included the chaplain, the chaplain assistant and the company commander. Outside the battalion were folks from the TBI clinic, Behavioral Health and Army Substance Abuse Program. This cooperative team engaged the Soldiers in activities and events designed to foster stronger bonds and more resilient Soldiers by providing information and ongoing education.
Our first resiliency gathering at Victory Ranch trained a small group of about 18 Soldiers and spouses on resources in the Fort Jackson community. This gathering was followed by a series of "Resiliency Days" and weekly outreach visitations to Training Ranges, Staff Offices, Company Headquarters, and other venues where the Soldiers and civilians of 4-10th Infantry serve.
The battalion commander and command sergeant major take an active role crushing the "code of silence" by personally interviewing Soldiers and setting a standard of open communication.
To date, we have held more than 40 hours of formal training events, brought in more than 30 subject matter experts to discuss their specialties and aided more than 120 high-risk Soldiers in their recovery.