By Capt. Michael Odgers
U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command
FORT GREELY, Alaska (11/29/12) - The 49th Missile Defense Battalion kicked off the beginning of its resiliency training with a two-day spiritual luncheon Nov. 15-16 at the Community Activity Center on Fort Greely.
For the Army, fall begins a new training year and a renewed focus on required training. One of those required training programs is resiliency. The program teaches that six core competencies – Self-awareness, Self-regulation, Optimism, Mental Agility, Strengths of Character and Connection – will significantly increase your ability to cope with life’s stress.
"Resiliency is one of my top five priorities," said Lt. Col. Joseph Miley, commander of 49th Missile Defense Battalion. "We had some challenges last year and I wanted to increase access to the resiliency training program."
The intent of the program is to provide the tools necessary to help Soldiers bounce back from life’s hurdles. The program is a proactive rather than reactive approach.
With the remote location of Fort Greely, winter right around the corner and the days with sunlight getting much shorter, there couldn’t be a better time to start talking about resiliency.
"People who have never been up here to Alaska don’t understand what we mean by remote," Sgt. 1st Class Charles Boldt, chaplain assistant in the
Alaska National Guard, said. "When you’re in a remote location in Alaska, especially in the dead of winter, you are so isolated. Then when you add the long periods of darkness, it really just wears on you."
Communities in Alaska are not just categorized by large or small but on or off the road system. The capital Juneau is only accessible by boat or air.
Getting resources to the Soldiers is paramount for Lt. Col. Richard Koch, the Alaska National Guard chaplain. Whether those are spiritual, counseling or even quality of life resources, getting them to the Soldiers helps in maintaining their resilience.
The Alaska National Guard occasionally does commissary runs bringing a commissary, in the form of a loaded C-130, to some of Alaska’s more remote communities.
Virtually all of the Soldiers at Fort Greely come from somewhere else. They’re working long hours around the clock and they are a long way from the resources they might need.
"Being at Fort Greely is almost like you’re deployed. But now you have your family with you," Boldt said. "We have a large contingent of Puerto Ricans here. The size of the community and language barriers can create their own isolation."
Because of the factors that can affect family members, Miley has been focusing his efforts on increasing access to the training to family members and civilians. He plans to bring this training to the local schools.
"Forty-four percent of the school children in the community are dependents of 49th Soldiers," Miley said. "Ages 16-19 are at the highest risk of self-injury and Alaska in general has higher rates."
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Alaska ranks second in suicides with 23.1 suicides per 1,000. Wyoming is first with 23.2 and Montana is third at 22.9.
The luncheon had several speakers discussing the importance of spirituality in maintaining your resilience. The keynote speaker was Riki Ellison, former NFL player, three-time Super bowl winner and founder of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance.
"The guest speakers were just great," Sgt. 1st. Class Diane Singh said. "I loved the way Riki Ellison used his life as a football player to show the adversity that he overcame."
Singh, a body builder, fitness and nutritional expert and football fan, said she related to Ellison’s stories.
"He said things in life don’t fulfill us, it’s what we do for each other," Singh recalled of Ellison’s comments. "He was a successful football player, he had gained a lot of wealth but in the end it left him empty. In the end, it’s the people that we impact that give us that fulfillment."He was saying a lot of things to me," Singh continued. "I thought wow, this is exactly what resiliency is about – serving others is the bottom line."