The Army is implementing a variety of programs to improve soldiers'
“resiliency,” or ability to deal with stress from combat or elsewhere,
Army leaders told an ILW Contemporary Military Forum, “Resilience in
the All-Volunteer Force,” Oct. 27 at the AUSA Annual Meeting.
While the Army ethos towards stress has traditionally been to “suck it
up,” Army leaders realize this isn't an appropriate approach any more
and are working to formally teach soldiers “Comprehensive Soldier
Fitness” to manage stress better so that they react to difficult
situations in a more healthy fashion. “This gives you the skills to
suck it up better,” said Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, the deputy
commander of Initial Military Training at Training and Doctrine
So the Army has established a “Victory University” at Fort Jackson, S.C.
where soldiers – usually captains, majors and NCOs – take a 10-day
course teaching ways to maximize emotional, social, family and
spiritual strength. Those who complete the course become Master
Resiliency Trainers, who then spread the lessons throughout the ranks
of the Army.
So far the Army has trained about 2,200 such master
trainers, and aims to get to a total of 5,000 by the end of Fiscal
Year 2011, said Col. Thomas Vail, deputy director of the
Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program. “We want to make sure that they
have the ability to successfully cope with life's challenges and
adversities,” he said. The soldiers that get the training will include
25 percent of all drill sergeants and 100 percent of Advanced
Individual Training platoon sergeants.
The 1st Infantry Division, currently deployed to southern Iraq, has
created a Resiliency Campus in Basra teaching resiliency skills to
soldiers deployed, said Maj. Gen. Vincent Brooks, the division's
commander, speaking to the forum by videoconference from Iraq.
The 172nd Infantry Brigade, based in Germany, is undertaking a pilot
program where it provides various incentives, like days off, to
soldiers who do activities that promote resilience, from working out
to attending chapel to using counseling services, said Col. Frank
Zachar, the brigade's commander.
And since implementing resiliency training among the young soldiers of
the 2nd Infantry Division in South Korea, crime among soldiers has
declined 60 percent over the last year. That result is due to the
resiliency training, said the division commander, Maj. Gen.
Michael Tucker. “I sent a letter to [Army Vice Chief of Staff] General
[Peter] Chiarelli. I said 'I've been in the Army a long time and it
takes a lot to impress me, but this resiliency training works,” he
The U.S. Army is the “center of gravity of our military,” but the
nation needs to act resolutely to ensure that it can manage the
strains that the service has experienced in nine years of combat, said
Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaking
October 27 at the Sustaining Members Luncheon at the AUSA Annual
“This decade of persistent conflict has had an impact that we are just
beginning to come to terms with, an impact of untold costs and an
undetermined toll,” he said. “And I believe that what we can see today
is truly just the tip of the iceberg, with consequences for our
military and veteran healthcare system, our national employment rate,
and even homelessness.”
While the positive news is that as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
wind down, the amount of time soldiers spend at home will increase,
that also means that the negative impacts of the wars on soldiers will
be seen in different ways, Mullen said. PTS, or post-traumatic stress,
is “this conflict's signature wound,” he said.
“Unlike combat, where danger was largely on patrol and outside the
wire, the greatest challenges returning soldiers now face are much
closer to home,” he said. “Family issues, financial problems, PTS,
even the threat of suicide will be more likely to confront soldiers
off-duty vice on, when they are away from the structure and leadership
they have become accustomed to.”
The Army's leadership must learn to deal with a new type of soldier,
Mullen said. “We have created a new generation of soldiers, tested to
the extreme, waiting to be tested again. How do we keep their
adrenaline pumping? How do we keep them engaged constructively? How do
we sustain excellence as they transition away from combat?” he asked.
And senior non-commissioned officers will be the key to this
transition, he added. “Ultimately our E-8s and our E-9s, as they have
so many times before, will need to lead the way here,” he said.
Mullen said that he is in particular worried about homelessness, as
veterans struggle to find jobs to match their skills in a difficult
economy. “In the Vietnam generation – my generation – similar
challenges contributed to far too many veterans falling through the
cracks and recent estimates place our homeless veteran population at
above 100,000,” he said. “And experts tell us that there is a five- to
seven-year latency period from discharge to homelessness, so the clock
is already ticking for today's war veterans. We simply can't afford to
lose another generation of veterans to homelessness like we did in the
Mullen called on the industry leaders at the luncheon to make a
special effort to hire veterans, especially wounded ones. “This is a
generation that is – in a way I’ve never seen before – wired to
contribute and wired to serve,” he said.