ARLINGTON, Va. – Building resiliency in Guard members is critical to increasing readiness, said an Army National Guard official.
"Resilient Soldiers do better at [physical training] tests. They do better at weapons qualification," said Jim Moore, manager of the Army Guard's resiliency program. "It builds readiness in units."
Moore said maintaining a resilient spirit is done in two ways.
The first is through master resiliency trainers, where Soldiers who have graduated from the MRT course work with unit members to build greater resiliency capabilities.
The course, Moore noted, focuses on 14 skills – including communication skills, problem solving and ways to encourage positive thinking.
"Our skills help people understand themselves," Moore said of the course. "That's a real big piece of it – self-awareness and self-regulation so you can then deal with issues as you're confronted with them and then grow on the backside of those adverse events that happened to you."
The second element focuses on Soldiers getting ready to deploy.
For those deploying for 90 days or more, Deployment Cycle Resilience Training is mandatory, said Moore. The training includes before, during and after deployment sessions.
"Deployment resiliency training is for Soldiers and families," he said. "Soldiers have to receive the training, families are invited to attend."
Another training session is offered for families while their Soldiers are deployed.
"While the Soldiers are gone there is a two-hour event that's held for the family members to provide them some insight into the reintegration process when their family member gets back," said Moore.
Both sets of training focus on the same thing: building constructive ways to work through stressful situations and finding positive solutions to problems.
"The more you understand yourself, the easier it is to deal with things," said Moore, adding the resilience training has come a long way over the years.
"Before, when we did resilience training, it was a lot of ‘suck it, rub some dirt on it, it'll be OK,'" Moore recalled. "Now, we're teaching leaders. This is at every level of leadership. Now everybody is speaking with a common language when it comes to resilience training."
Moore, a retired Army sergeant major, said the training was an eye-opening experience for him.
"When I went to [master resilience] training, I was in there with my arms crossed," he said. "I knew everything. I didn't need the resilience training. By day three, I was all over the resilience training."
The course had such an impact on Moore, he ensured all the NCOs under him attended the course.
"It's provided me more flexibility, more openness in my mind … I don't feel there's anything I can't do," he said.
Moore said he also saw similar outcomes from the NCOs who attended the training.
"What I noticed over time is that a lot of the issues they used to come to me with stopped happening," he said. "I would ask what was going on and the responses were ‘oh, we talked it out.' They were taking care of things themselves and didn't need me to help."
While Moore said the incorporation of resilience training has been a positive thing, he added it's difficult to directly track its impact.
"It's really hard to measure your resilience before you go and then measure your resilience after you go," he said.
But, he stressed, the corollary second- and third-order effects are large, important ones. Soldiers who attend the MRT course as less likely to engage in risk-taking behavior, Moore said.
"We can say where there is no MRT, (risk-taking) numbers are high," Moore observed. "When they get MRT…their numbers go low. There's something happening."
The training itself, and commander awareness, is important in building resilience.
That's especially important, Moore said, in the National Guard.
"We're unique," he said. "We not only deploy for combat, but we support [response to] natural disasters. We have some unique challenges."
But, Moore said, the resilience skills work in nearly any situation.
"The skills we teach are not just for military life," he said. "They're life skills. If you really live the resilience skills we teach, you'll have a better life."
Moore said upcoming changes to the resilience program will include suicide prevention and substance abuse avoidance training.
"They all intermingle and because they intermingle it will actually make [MRTs] better trainers and better at being able to deal with issues that are happening in the units."
For Moore, resilience training has also positively affected his home life.
"The fact that I'm talking with my kids more and doing things [with them], I consider that a success story," he said.
Those who immerse themselves and apply the lessons, Moore said, consider the training course one of the Army's best.
"You really have to look at yourself and really have to be honest with yourself," he said. "It's about self-awareness."