By Spc. Emily Knitter, 1HBCT Public AffairsAugust 23, 2012
FORT STEWART, Ga. - 'An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.'
Everyone has heard this old wife's tale, no matter if they have given it any lingering thought or not. For Soldiers preparing for combat, that saying is worth its weight in gold, especially when it comes to mental resilience.
"The more resilient our warriors are going into combat, the more successful they will be transitioning back into a normal life afterwards," said Command Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Samuel Rhodes, head of the Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness Program Manager for Fort Benning, Ga. "The goal of the program is to encourage the individual Soldier to step up and recognize he has challenges, and know that he can go talk to his fellow Soldier or leader to get help."
Command Sergeant Major Rhodes encourages this communication by sharing the story about his own battle with post-traumatic stress, and not sugar coating the struggles he faced daily.
"Whenever I talk about my personal experiences, I know it is going to be more challenging because some of those more difficult memories are still fresh in my mind," he said. "I have to rely on my resilience training and my own inner strength to get past that."
But that kind of candid openness makes a big difference on the Soldiers.
"I like getting to know the speaker's background, hear about what they have faced and how they dealt with it," said Spc. Nicholas Keith, an infantryman with Headquarters and Headquarters Co., 3rd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, Third Infantry Division. "Because then I can try to apply it in my own life."
Although Spc. Keith has deployed previously, he said this type of classes helps keep his mental state sharp and remind him there is always a way to make it through an issue.
"Having to do this class periodically is a good thing because it increases my ability to accomplish my mission," he said. "This type of mental groundwork reminds me I can make it through anything I put my mind to."
Although applicable to all service members, this program has been designed specifically for Soldiers who may be dealing with various levels of post-traumatic stress in their daily lives.
"I could go to a psychologist all day long," Command Sgt. Maj. Rhodes explained. "But if I can talk to somebody who has worn those shoes, and understands the challenges we have at war and coming back home, it makes my life a lot easier."
Whether or not he knows directly, Rhodes goal is to make a difference for the Soldiers.
"This is more than just a program, it is a passion," he concluded. "We are going to help thousands of Soldiers that we don't even know, who will hear us talk and maybe won't come up to us, but will talk to their fellow Soldiers now and that is my biggest goal."