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Training by, for Soldiers ‘effective’ life skills

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Wide gamut of skills provided

By MAUREEN ROSE
Gold Standard Acting Editor
maureen.a.rose2.civ@mail.mil
This is the second of a 3-part series.
The Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness program is the training and execution arm of the Army’s Ready and Resilient Campaign, according to Moon Mullins, the CSF2 Training Center manager at Fort Knox.
The program is comprised of 12 resilience skills and six performance-enhancing skills.
The performance units are taught by sport psychologists who specialize in the military’s adaptation of the mental skills first formally developed at The United States Military Academy at West Point. The resilience skills are adapted from material formally developed at the University of Pennsylvania.
While there are many skill sets taught in the program, the resilience skills are primarily taught in Solder-to-Soldier channels.
Sgt 1st Class Richard Carnes, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the medical maintenance section of Ireland Army Community Hospital, recently completed his Master Resilience Training in a two-week course at the University of Pennsylvania. He had become familiar with some resilience principles while studying for his bachelor’s degree. He was eager to learn more and volunteered to attend the course when the opportunity arose.
According to the NCO, the day-to-day routine benefits from the MRT principles. Most of the folks in his shop have had some MRT training, so he’s convinced his office is a good place to work. The terminology is familiar with his staff and even in joking situations, the MRT language saves time and explanations. Recently, someone teased “Was that a thinking trap?” in reference to one of the resilience skills that teach people to recognize less-than-productive patterns.
Carnes also believes the MRT resilience training is great for job performance issues like problem solving, but overall attitude helps, too.
“This shop is great, but optimism is the first step to resilience,” Carnes said. “We have lunch together once a week, we know each other well and our families know one another. Just having a time and place to vent is helpful.”
His medical equipment experts are responsible for keeping equipment in good working order throughout the hospital. His staff needs to be focused on their work, he explained, because distractions could impact patient safety.
The resilience muscle-building goes beyond the workplace, Carnes added. The personal applications, he said are extensive.
“Happy wife, happy life applies here,” he said with a smile.
Unlike the neophyte Carnes, Sgt. 1st Class Eric Tobin is a level 4 MRT instructor who was at Fort Knox recently for his certification as a Master Resilience Trainer-Performance Enhancement, which gives him the expertise to teach all the program’s components.
Another contrast between the two NCOs is their initial exposure to the resilience training.
“I was combative about the program initially,” Tobin admitted. “I don’t like psychology and resist people telling me they are going to “fix” me. My initial perception was that this was about clinical psychology and we were going to sit down and talk about my mother.”
Of course, Tobin soon realized the program isn’t about clinical psychology but it showed him how the resilience tools could help him as a leader.
“It wasn’t really about me but my interaction with my Soldiers,” he said. As he learned more about the performance enhancing skills, he realized he was gaining effective teaching tools. He said teaching resilience and performance enhancement to young Soldiers increased the learning curve exponentially.
Tobin agrees with Carnes about the extensive reach of the program.
“Now that I have invested in this program so long, I have internalized it. It becomes part of your life; it affects how I deal with my own life, with conflict. I’m more effective as a team member and a better human being for the skills I have learned through CSF2,” he said.
Staff Sgt. Calvin Ward, a resilience training assistant, works with Carnes at the hospital and felt much like Tobin in the beginning of his experience with MRT.
“I take soldiering seriously; I didn’t want to attend something that would be a waste of my time, but I was shocked,” he said. “It’s very effective training; you could pick up tools to see yourself better and tools to help others.”
The resilience training focuses on many self awareness skills and Ward said it was interesting to see how the nature of questions changed as the class progressed. The self-reflection tool showed people if they could see something in themselves, they might be better able to identify it in others.
Ward explained how he learned a few things about himself that help him on the job. One of his “icebergs,”—the term MRTs use to explain those hidden things that can shipwreck performance—was time management. He was always rushing around, feeling stressed about things that had to be done at the last minute. By simply adjusting his schedule to allow more time for projects, he accomplished more with less stress.
“It’s really effective to see NCOs take ownership of this training,” he said. “You learn to hunt the good stuff and understand yourself better. I’m a very positive person and I learned if you stay positive long enough, it will rub off on others.”
He said the training should help Soldiers’ job performance, too.
“Whether it’s in line units or desk jobs, or even how you perform at a board—you learn to control your environment and not let the environment control you.”
Now an avid convert, Ward said everyone should take advantage of the MRT experts at Fort Knox.
“Our three-day course was just a taste of the whole program; I’m looking forward to learning more and seeing how it impacts the Army,” he said.
The training will become even more important, Ward claims, as the Army draws down and many Soldiers—enlisted as well as officer—may need to adjust their career goals.
“This training helps identify problems and solutions; set goals—these are life coaching principles. So much of Army training doesn’t stick with you because you don’t use it. But this is something you can use. No matter what your job, your rank, ethnic background, race or age; this training crosses all of those.”