By Sgt. Kimberly K. Menzies, 4th Brigade Combat Team Public AffairsAugust 7, 2012
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (Aug. 7, 2012) -- Representatives from 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, attended the Spouse Master Resiliency Training course from July 23 to Aug. 3, at Fort Campbell.
"The significance or purpose of this course is equipping Soldiers, their families and the Army community with skills they can use to enhance their resilience," said Heidi Zeigler, the lead trainer for the course and a level IV master resiliency trainer.
The volunteers who attended the course went through a selection within their units and rigorous interview process prior to receiving a course slot.
"We selected the individuals based on battalion command team recommendations, the volunteer's past experience as Currahee volunteers, and an interview process," said Col. Val C. Keaveny Jr., commander of 4th BCT, 101st Abn. Div. "We had many outstanding volunteers, but unfortunately we only had space for four spouses to spearhead this new and exciting pilot program for our Family members."
"Sixty individuals within the division volunteered and began the interview process," said Jennifer Sztalkoper, a Currahee spouse and graduate from the SMRT course. "We were all interviewed and questioned by a panel of individuals from division. Only 30 of us were selected to attend the class and become certified as level I SMRTs."
The training is a 10 day long course where selected volunteers learn new life skills to teach to Soldiers and their spouses to know how to build resiliency.
"The training consisted of 10 days," said Natasha Godkin, the spouse of a squad leader from 4th BCT, 101st Abn. Div. "The first five days we went through the program as students and the next five days were spent learning how to apply the knowledge."
"In the 10-day course we teach the key components or building block of resiliency," said Zeigler. The building blocks of resiliency: Self-awareness, self-regulation, mental agility, optimism, connections and strength of character.
"We were taught various techniques such as ATC and constructive responding to help build resiliency skills," said Sztalkoper.
The acronym ATC stands for activating event, thoughts and consequences; within consequences there are two subcategories, emotions and reactions.
"It is about what happened, what we think about it, what our emotions are and what we do," said Zeigler. "It helps build self awareness."
"One of my favorite things I learned was [referred to as] hunt the good stuff," said Godkin. "Learning how to focus on what good things happened that day."
"Hunting the good stuff is actively looking for good things that happened, which is building optimism," said Zeigler.
"In addition to the resiliency skills, SMRTs have the materials to teach pre and post deployment resiliency training to spouses and couples in an environment where anonymity and confidentiality of the participants are ensured within the classes," said Sztalkoper.
Though the graduates have yet to begin teaching their new-found skills to Soldiers and their families outside of the course, they have a strong understanding of how vital this training will be for Soldiers and their families to flourish.
"We are all human and we will all hit brick walls every now and again," said Godkin. "This program will give you the skills needed to not only bounce back but tear that brick wall down so you never hit it again."
"I think [this training] will make their perspective a lot clearer," said Mendie Pedigo, the spouse of a Soldier from 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 4th BCT, 101st Abn. Div. "Meaning, if this training is properly learned and practiced, spouses will be better able to see their Soldier's side of things and Soldiers see their spouse's side. Not only will we be able to see each other's sides, we will have better ways to communicate and handle situations with each other."
Many of the graduates have already started to see how they can start implementing the learned skills within their own lives.
"I like to think that I have it all together and under control but that is just not true," said Amy Scarpulla, an SMRT graduate and a Family Readiness Group leader from Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 1st Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th BCT, 101st Abn. Div. "With these skills I can be a better wife to my Soldiers, mother to my kids, be a better friend and leader."
The new trainers are expected to be a great additional resource for Soldiers and their families to help make dealing with daily life easier.
"Spouse Master Resiliency Trainers will not be used to replace chaplains, Military, Family Life Consultants or members of the behavior health team," said Sztalkoper. "We are an additional asset to help empower individuals with resilience skills for their everyday lives."
Even leaders from the SMRTs units are excited to embrace the graduates and their newly honed skills.
"We look forward to our SMRTs putting their incredible motivation and new skills to use," said Keaveny. "I am confident that SMRTs will provide another capability for our families by equipping them with skills to help them endure challenges associated with the current military lifestyle, before, during and after a deployment."