An Army report released in December concluded that the Master Resilience Training aspect of Comprehensive Soldier Fitness is working.
Now, Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Director Brig. Gen. Jim Pasquarette is trying to get the word out about how important and effective the training is.
Pasquarette spoke to Soldiers and spouses attending the Pre-Command Course at the School for Command Preparation at Fort Leavenworth Jan. 26. PCC is a preparation course for brigade- and battalion-level commanders and command sergeants major. Pasquarette said he was trying to help them understand what CSF is and what MRT can do for them.
CSF has historically been associated with the suicide prevention work the program does, Pasquarette said, but he wants to get the word out that the program is much more than just suicide prevention.
“The reason we are doing this is not for suicide prevention,” Pasquarette said. “Really what this is about is equating psychological fitness to what we already value, physical fitness.”
The Army is consistent about physical fitness training.
“We do that so when called upon we are physically fit enough to excel in a tough, austere environment,” Pasquarette said.
Before the CSF program began the Army did not have psychological fitness training, Pasquarette said. Physically fit Solders were deployed and had to rely on the resilience and psychological fitness they already had. If there were problems after a deployment, the Army just worked the treatment angle, Pasquarette said.
“What we are doing now is trying to work on the psychological fitness on the front end to improve a Soldier’s psychological fitness and resilience so they are better able to cope with adversity,” Pasquarette said.
All active-duty, National Guard and Reserve Soldiers are required to take the CFS’s Global Assessment Tool annually. The GAT is an online questionnaire that measures a Soldier’s psychological health. The GAT gives Soldiers a report on their psychological fitness and where they need improvement.
The report released by the Army in December is based on results of the GAT taken by Soldiers from eight brigade combat teams randomly selected from across the Army. Four of the brigades had one Master Resilience Trainer per company and did resilience training. The other four brigades did not have MRTs or do resilience training, they only took the GAT.
The Soldiers took the GAT three times over an 18-month period, Pasquarette said. The aggregate psychological fitness and resilience of the units who had MRTs and did resilience training improved.
“And those that did not have the MRTs or conduct training, the resilience stayed stagnant and actually toward the end it dipped,” Pasquarett said. “What we found is that resilience can be taught, it can be learned and you can improve your individual resilience through this training.”
The training helps a Soldier’s ability to cope with stress and perform under stressful situations.
“And, I think most importantly, you have the ability to thrive in life,” Pasquarette said. “It’s not just about getting through the day and not having a meltdown, it’s about getting the most out of life and enhancing your relationship with those that you care about.”
The Master Resilience Training Course was established in 2008 to increase resilience and enhance performance in Soldiers, family members and Department of the Army civilians. MRTs are graduates of the 10-day course that is taught at the University of Pennsylvania, at Victory University at Fort Jackson, S.C., and by mobile training teams.
Pasquarette said he went through the 10-day course himself a couple of months ago.
“I went in there deliberately skeptical because I had to see it for myself and really become a believer in this so I could talk to groups,” Pasquarette said. “It took about three or four days, but you really see the potential and the power in this.”
Pasquarette said it would be difficult to find someone who has been through the course who doesn’t believe it has incredible potential to improve the quality of the force through improved psychological health.
The culture shift of the Army being proactive in psychological resilience has been difficult, Pasquarette said, but if people could understand what the program is they would be on the team.
“We have done a poor job of explaining what we are doing and what it will provide for you,” Pasquarette said. “There are those who think it is just simply ‘you either have it (resilience) or you don’t.’”
Pasquarette is tackling this lack of information and understanding at the brigade and battalion level and higher. One of the problems, Pasquarette said, is that the command teams are already doing a lot, then they are told to do resilience training as well. Talking to the new command teams coming in is one of his tactics.
“So my campaign here (at PCC) is to explain to the commanders coming in why we are doing it and what this provides you and your Soldiers,” Pasquarette said. “It is something that takes a leap of faith.”
The other issue Pasquarette is working on is explaining to commanders that one of the keys to making the training work in their units is picking the right people to do it. He said he has been explaining to the new command teams what kinds of qualifications an MRT has to have to be effective.
“What I have been working here at the Pre-Command Course at Leavenworth is informing the command teams going out to command their brigades, and their spouses, that it is important that you pick the right NCO or the right DA civilian,” Pasquarette said.
Pasquarette said the whole CSF program is being looked at right now to see where it can be more effective and efficient. The baseline of the program won’t change but Pasquarette said he wants to take a look at how to link the different pillars of the program — how to better integrate the GAT with the MRT is one goal.
Pasquarette said he is also looking forward to this summer when another report will be released. The report will be measuring the same units and their GAT results to see if the rates of adverse behaviors, like suicide and drug and alcohol abuse, have decreased as the psychological fitness increased.