Health & Safety

April 26, 2012

Resilient Spouse Academy teaches spouses survival skills

By Joan Vasey
Scout Editor
Physical fitness is an important tool for increased resiliency. Here, students learn physical fitness through Zumba during a Resilient Spouse Academy training session.

By definition, resiliency is the ability to bounce back after life-altering events, adjust to sudden shifts and changes and meet challenges head-on. Resiliency is a critical weapon for a service member to have in his or her life-skills arsenal.

It’s not only those in the armed forces who need to be resilient — family members, especially military spouses need to be able to cope with deployments and other situations unique to the military.

When service members deploy, household roles shift. The remaining spouse assumes the deploying partner’s responsibilities in addition to their own while living with the uncertainty that deployment naturally brings. A person used to a stable lifestyle and who is new to the military may not be very resilient, especially if they’ve never experienced multiple moves or had to survive a life-altering event.

However, resiliency skills can be developed. Army Community Service can help.

In 2009, Jennifer Rickert was stationed at Fort Riley, Kan. and was frustrated by Fort Riley’s and the family readiness groups’ lack of training for spouses. “Family Readiness Groups are supportive during deployment, but no spouse is really equipped with the skills they need to withstand deployments. Especially if it’s their first one, like it was mine.”

So, she and a few others decided to do something about it. Through the ACS program at Riley and the garrison commander, they created a class to teach resiliency skills – the Resilient Spouse Academy.

During the weeklong academy, participants learn a variety of skills which increase their chances of surviving in the military. These skills can be applied in many situations.

Spouses learn how to communicate and network effectively. They learn to become more financially savvy. They are taught to recognize signs of suicidal tendencies and substance abuse. Attendees also learn about support networks for parents and how to develop the five comprehensive Soldier fitness skills for themselves: physical, social, family, spiritual and emotional.

Rickert was involved with one workshop at Riley before her husband was reassigned to Fort Huachuca. After a few months of settling in, she began volunteering at Army Community Service and has been there for about a year. She has also brought the Resilient Spouse Academy to Fort Huachuca.

In May, she’ll begin her fourth class. It will run May 7 – 11, and registration is currently underway.

“The classes are daylong classes,” Rickert said. “They run from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.”

Rickert, who volunteers as the ACS special events coordinator, said the May class is currently scheduled to take place at the ACS building off the traffic circle near Old Post. The classes are free, and childcare and children’s lunches are provided. The only thing participants need to bring is lunch for themselves.

Rickert said her classes continue to evolve, and have become more spouse-based, focusing on what the spouses need and want. “We even include a Zumba class,” Rickert said.

The ‘extreme couponing’ session, a favorite, is taught by Army wife Priscilla Donnelly, an avid coupon-user who meets with other coupon users on Sundays at Murr Community Center.

Another class focuses on Army Family Team Building — what it is, why it is important and how it can help spouses to network and create strong bonds with others. A support base is especially important to those whose spouses are deployed and even more so to those who are serving as the sole parent in the absence of the deployed spouse — a role that can be very demanding.

Other areas the Resilient Spouse Academy focuses on include: family finances; women’s wellness; Master Resiliency Training focusing on the five comprehensive Soldier fitness skills; available scholarships; support and other resources for military spouses; the new military spouse employment program and networking.

“It saddens me that our spouses are not aware of the many resources and the support available to us. A spouse at our last academy cried in relief to know that there is a lot of support here at Fort Huachuca and other installations. The staff here at ACS did a wonderful job reassuring her of that,” Rickert said.

The Resilient Spouse Academy is not only open to active-duty military spouses.

“The program is open to members of the [National] Guard, Reservists, Department of the Army civilians and retirees,” Rickert stated.

“We are not going to turn anyone down. We all need resiliency,” she explained with a chuckle.

For information or to register, call Rickert, 538.8649.

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