Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Piper
The Army hosted a panel discussion in New York City to address building and maintaining resilient soldiers, families and Department of the Army civilians.
Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. John Campbell was joined on the panel by Roger Goodell, the National Football League commissioner, Dr. JoAnn Difede, Program for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Studies director, and Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho, Army surgeon general.
"Each organization here represents a different facet of resiliency, and the common goal is to come up with policy and procedures, at least for the Army and maybe for other organizations, to really preserve and protect the long-term health and wellness of our people," Campbell said.
The Army and NFL share similar cultures.
The NFL has some of the same qualities that the military promotes, such as mental toughness, physical toughness, dedication to teammates and mission, Campbell said.
"That commitment to the team sometimes prevents our soldiers and players from asking to take a knee," Campbell said.
Adding, "They don’t want to be taken out of the game and they [soldiers] don’t want to be taken out of the fight."
Goodell said that while he doesn’t compare his players to soldiers, the two cultures share many traits.
He said the NFL and Army can benefit from the work both organizations are doing to help players on and off the field.
"We have worked hard with the military to share our protocols. We have return-to-field protocols. The Army has return-to-battlefield protocols. They’re very similar," he said.
Horoho shared a story from a recent visit to Afghanistan, where a soldier with the 3rd Infantry Division was injured in a firefight after a bullet ricocheted off his helmet.
He continued to fight.
After his unit won the battle, he fell as the impact of his injury took effect. He had suffered a concussion from the force of the bullet.
His battle buddies recognized what happened. Because the Army has a protocol for treatment, education of leaders, and tracking of the impact of injuries, they took him out of the fight and brought him back to a concussive care center.
With the right support, and several days to rest and recover, he was able to return to the fight.
"We now have a 98 percent return-to-duty rate for those that are exposed to improvised explosive device blasts, because of that simple protocol," Horoho said.
The Army continues to pursue innovative research to ensure the continued safety of soldiers, Campbell said.
Those efforts include the use of blast gauges on vehicles and equipment to measure the effects of blasts on the body, the presence of magnetic resonance imaging, or MRIs, in theater to hasten examination, and the development of new protocols and treatments, Campbell said.
He explained that the sensors are designed to store linear and rotational measurements to provide information on the acceleration of the soldier’s head.
"We are starting to get some really good feedback as we continue to pilot that in Afghanistan with several of our brigades," Campbell said.
Adding, "They will continue to help us understand the differences in the effects of brain trauma and really facilitate our standards of care in the future."
In over 12 years of conflict, Army medicine has learned much on the battlefield, Horoho said.
That information has been shared with civilian doctors to improve trauma care across the nation.
Military medicine has had the same effect on rehabilitative medicine.
To date, more than 100 soldiers who have lost a limb have deployed back into combat to serve their nation.
"We have pushed technology, we pushed science and we have pushed research and that has changed rehabilitative medicine," Horoho said.
"We have the same opportunity to be able to do that with behavioral health, psychological health and concussive care," she added.
During the past 12 years of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan the Army has learned that it needs to apply a "full-spectrum" approach to resiliency, Campbell said.
"It begins the first day that soldiers come into the Army, and you take it all the way through their transition out of the Army," he said.
"We really have to incrementally infuse this thing called resilience into our institutions and all the training we do from basic training all the way to when they get out," he explained.
To reach that goal, the Army began the Ready and Resilient Campaign, which has four focus areas.
First, program proponents hope to integrate resilience training as a key part of the Army’s professional military education.
That training should continue throughout a soldier’s career, from induction through separation or retirement.
Second, campaign organizers want to synchronize and integrate key Army programs to reduce or eliminate suicide and suicidal ideations, sexual harassment and sexual assault, bullying and hazing, substance abuse, and domestic violence.
They also hope to eliminate any stigmas or barriers associated with seeking help.
Third, they hope to develop improved methods to provide leaders and commanders timely and accurate information and metrics to aid them in better identifying "at risk" and "high-risk" soldiers.
By doing so, they believe they can prevent tragedy though early intervention.
Finally, they hope to continue to improve the Integrated Disability Evaluation System to shorten processing times and improve the services provided to soldiers and their families.
"It’s not really [creating] a new program, but it’s taking all the programs we have and synergizing those to make them better," Campbell said.
Explaining the importance of resiliency, he said, "We must develop coping skills that allow flexibility for our soldiers, family members and our great Department of the Army civilians to understand how to deal with complex stressors in the environment that they live in."
Adding, "It’s not only about the soldier but for young children, teenagers, sports enthusiasts, and people of all ages."
Goodell said that overall, it’s really about the traumatic brain injury issue, not only for the Army and NFL, but for all of society.
"We believe the work we are doing is going to lead the way to make our society a better society," he said.
"At the same time we are making our game better and the lives of our players better," he added.