FORT POLK, LA — When Soldiers go to war, they face issues that most of those who've never been in battle can't understand: Harsh living conditions; an enemy bent on killing you; potential deadly booby traps around every corner or even out in the open; wounds - both physical and psychological - that leave a person traumatized, often for life.
Once the tour is over, the Soldier returns home, often to a Family that has no real idea what their hero has been through and must live with. Helping Soldiers and Family members move ahead with their lives without succumbing to battle scars is the goal of the Army's Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness program (CSF2).
The CSF2 program's mission is to improve the physical and psychological health of Soldiers, Families and Department of the Army civilians, and
enhance their performance by providing self-assessment and training capabilities, with resilience a key building block.
The Army defines resilience as the mental, physical, emotional and behavioral ability to face and cope with adversity, adapt to change, recover, learn and grow from setbacks. According to the Army resiliency training web site, a resilient individual is better able to leverage intellectual and emotional skills and behaviors that promote enhanced performance. Resilience and enhanced performance are closely related, and research indicates that individuals who demonstrate strong characteristics in one area are usually strong in the second area, too.
On Fort Polk, resilience training is in full swing encompassing Soldiers, spouses and teens. Elizabeth Riddle, whose spouse, Sgt. Robert Riddle, a resilience training assistant with the 162nd Infantry Brigade, attended a spouse resilience training session Aug. 1 at Maple Terrace Neighborhood Center.
"He (Robert) was always telling me about the good things they do in resilience training," Elizabeth said. "I'm a stay-at-home mom, and so far, that's not really been my cup of tea. I'm hoping to get involved as a civilian resilience training assistant to help with my stress management and assist other spouses."
Robert Riddle said he was originally "ordered" to be an RST.
"I had not bought into the program before I went through the trainers course," he said. "Now I'm sold. It's really helped me to live a happier life."
Riddle said there is some resistance to the resilience training by Soldiers in his unit.
"A lot of them see it as just another piece of quarterly training," he said. "But those who give it a chance and buy in, I can see a change in their lives. As a trainer, that's what you hope for."
During the Aug. 1 training, those in attendance, which included couples, kids and spouses, learned how to communicate more effectively, then worked through scenarios that helped both partners understand what their mate was attempting to get across.
Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Alvarez is one of Fort Polk's master resiliency trainers - those who have had advance classes in resiliency training and facilitate classes. They are assisted by RTAs. Alvarez said when the CSF2 program began in 2009, the Army turned its attention away from teaching only Soldiers and added spouses and other Family members to the mix.
"Big Army recognized there was a lack of coping is just as beneficial, if not more so, for the garrison environment," he said. "While Soldiers are trained to meet the stressor of war fighting, they are not trained to meet the stressors that they and their families experience at home, such as
financial and marriage issues," he added. In response, the Army is now creating a culture of resilience.
As more and more Soldiers, Family members and Army Civilians learn the skills taught by CSF2, the more the entire Army community begins speaking the same language.
Master Sgt. Michael Ernzen, a Master Resilience Trainer (MRT), said the skills he learned during this training "redefined toughness," noting that
Soldiers typically think toughness is all physical, but there's a mental component to it, as well. Master Sgt. Tim Frock, another MRT, said the
training is "completely life altering; I now look at the world in a completely different way."
Soldiers have said that after learning the skills and implementing them at work and at home, they have seen a huge difference in their interactions
with others. They better understand how to leverage their strengths and the strengths of others, problem solve and think through their emotions before reacting. As a result, they say they have stronger marriages, better relationships with their children, and better understand the issues their
fellow Soldiers are going through. What was originally developed to help the Army Family get through a time of persistent conflict has now turned into arming them with life skills to support them through Army life and beyond.
CSF2 is available to any Soldier, Family member or Army Civilian who wants it. "All you have to do is take the Global Assessment Tool (GAT) and see where you score in the five dimensions of strength, and then get training from an MRT," said Riddle. They will also be able to access advice from experts and communicate with each other on the soon-to-be launched ArmyFit" website. ArmyFit" offers the virtual community-building features of a social media platform, but is inside the secure .mil environment.
The online self-development can be accessed by all members of the Army Family by visiting the CSF2 website at www.csf2.army.mil.