Army

January 11, 2013

Are you Desert Strong?

Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness is a long-term, enduring initiative that broadens the assessment and training of every member of the Army beyond the standard physical and technical abilities. Just as everyone enters the Army with a variable amount of strength in each of the dimensions of strength (physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and family), both the rate of improvement and ultimate achievement will differ for every Soldier, Army civilian and Family member. Psychological strength, like physical strength, does not just “happen”- it must be trained, practiced, and refined – Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness website.

What is resilience? The Army has placed a lot of emphasis on this term in the last year – but what is it really?

Merriam Webster’s defines resilience as an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change, or in my words – the ability to bounce back from adversity. So, how do we make our Soldiers and Leaders resilient? We must start by making ourselves stronger.

Strengthening ourselves and our profession will help build resilience. How, you might ask. The fact is, the stronger we are in the five pillars of comprehensive fitness, the less likely we are to find ourselves in a situation that requires us to “bounce back” from adversity. By strengthening ourselves we automatically build resilience.

So, how do we strengthen ourselves? The answer to this question is tough – we can strengthen our bodies by exercising and having a good fitness routine and we can have a strong belief set that helps us cope spiritually. But, how do we strengthen our emotional, social, and Family areas? In my opinion, knowledge is power – understanding and learning builds our emotional, social and family strength. If we understand what the pitfalls out there are, we are much more likely to avoid situations that require us to dig into the realm of resilience to start with, which means we are stronger and more resilient.

How do we strengthen ourselves and our Leaders?

First, we must reinforce the Profession of Arms. Our troops must understand they are part of something bigger than themselves – something more important than the average worker out there. They must understand that they provide what our nation needs in time of peace or war. Something that the other 99 percent of the population cannot provide.

Second, we must teach them. We need not just teach them tasks that are concerning in the present, such as suicide awareness and behavioral health (although these must be part of our teaching), but we must teach them to be better in all dimensions of Soldier and Family fitness. We must teach them in small groups where mutual discussion is the rule. We must have our junior Leaders teach in order to improve our Soldiers and our Leaders at the same time. Finally, we must BE THERE. We must teach standing in front of our Soldiers. We must coach standing next to our Soldiers, and we must mentor sitting across from our Soldiers. There is no replacement for being there for your Soldiers.

Fort Irwin will begin a program of instruction on Feb. 1 called “Desert Strong.” This program will seek to build strength in our Soldiers and Leaders by demonstrating the previously mentioned theories. This program will only work if our commanders and senior non-commissioned officers at all levels embrace and act positively in advancing the program. The material will be developed by subject matter experts in all fields. It will be available to the lowest level, and can be tailored to any situation. The program is based on face-to-face instruction in very small blocks. There will be ready-made classes available for download from a central location, reducing the time and research required by the instructor. This program will build strength through the interaction of Leader to led (providing expert power), building trust, and demonstrating knowledge. I urge all our Leaders to support the implementation of this program – it will help make us all “Desert Strong.”




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