The Fort Campbell Courier

MRTP: Resilient Soldiers, Resilient Army

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Posted: Thursday, February 18, 2010 4:30 pm

When Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey Jr. came to visit Fort Campbell, he talked briefly about the establishment of a Master Resiliency Trainer program to help Soldiers deal with the stresses that come with multiple deployments.

Fort Campbell already has 35 graduates of the program, but there are still many who don’t know what it is.

The idea behind the training is to prepare Soldiers to deal with stress and traumatic events beforehand, instead of trying to help them after the fact.

“We’re trying to give Solders coping mechanisms and teaching them ways of making themselves stronger and more resilient,” explained Capt. Sebastian Schnellbacher, division psychiatrist.

The MRT is part of Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program, which was established to increase the resilience of Soldiers and Families by developing their strength not just physically, but in the areas of emotional, social and spiritual as well.

“[It was a] lot of self-awareness and improving communications skills and how we communicate, in both our personal and professional lives,” said Staff Sgt. Layton Flynn, 96th Aviation Support Battalion.

Flynn said going into the training, even he didn’t know what to expect.

The fragmented order had only requested motivated, energetic noncommissioned officers with open minds. He said by the time the program finished it had changed his way of thinking.

“It helps you develop more self awareness and more social intelligence to be able to understand your Soldiers, to understand your husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, friends, whatever, and be able to communicate with them and share how you felt and to become a better and more effective Soldier,” Flynn said.

Flynn said as an NCO, leadership comes naturally to him, but the MRT gave him a framework to teach his Soldiers and to disseminate what he’s learned.

Staff Sgt. Michael Smith, 1st Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, said it didn’t just tell him to think outside of the box, but showed him his thinking was in fact in a box.

“The training actually shows you that just about everybody is in some kind of thinking trap or kind of in the box,” Smith said. “It opens you up to a different rational. So it allows you to be able to think in different ways you haven’t thought of thinking before.”

He added that the training not only helped him better communicate with his Soldiers, but also with his spouse and Family members.

“It has greatly improved the quality of my marriage, being able to learn to communicate too and cope better,” he said.

Both men were eager to begin disseminating the information to the other Soldiers in their battalions, as well as finding a way to have it taught to the Families through the Family Readiness Groups.

“I’ve already been talking with my chain of command about exactly how we’re going to put this in,” Smith said. “I just sent it downrange ahead of me so it’ll be there, as a tool for not only myself, but the battalion to be able to use it as a tool downrange.”

Flynn said once the battalion leaders were familiar with the MRT, it could begin to trickle down until every Soldier had been given the coping and communication tools he received at the training.

“It definitely helps with the coping of dealing with the deployments,” Flynn said. “I think once it gets out widespread across the Army and it gets adopted and everyone starts using it, I believe Army-wide DUI rates will go down, suicide rates will go down, PTSD will go down, depression will go down, alcoholism will go down. I believe all those problems and issues that the military currently has put a black eye on the military. I think once we give these Soldiers these tools to become resilient and cope and problem solving, I think overall it will lower all those numbers and make us a more successful military.”

Smith emphasized that it wouldn’t only help the individual Soldier, but also the Soldier’s personal relationships.

“I just can’t stress enough that I believe this is a tool the Army can use for Soldiers and spouses, [for] avoiding divorces,” Smith said. “There’s no reason for it other than Soldiers and spouses not being able to communicate with each other. The tool for spouses and service members is now there, we’ve just got to get this stuff disseminated out to them and hopefully it decreases divorce rates.”

Both men agreed they came out of the training as believers.

 “It changed me as a leader and a person and how I conduct myself on a day-to-day basis,” Flynn said.

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