Thursday, August 20, 2009

U.S. Army Promotes Emotional Resiliency

"Resilience is a way of thinking -- you apply optimistic thinking to a problem. It is really a difference between, for instance, when you invite somebody for a date and they say no, resilient people think 'their loss -- I'll do better next time.' What they don't think is 'nobody will ever like me. I'm worthless.' That's really what it is. It teaches you to remember that problems are temporary, that they are local.

"Our intention is to have every platoon sergeant and every drill sergeant to have gone through this. It's really like part of what you do when you take somebody to the range, or when you are teaching somebody how to have confidence about going into the gas chamber [combat training]. It is also about teaching by example in an operational environment, how to deal with fear, and disappointment. It's tools, thinking tools, how not to fall into thinking traps or catastrophic thinking."

--Brig. Gen. Rhonda Cornum, director of the U.S. Army Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program.

Resiliency, or mental toughness, is part of the Army's larger "Comprehensive Soldier Fitness" program, that aims to ensure Soldiers are as mentally tough as they are physically tough. Cornum said soldiers will be taught resiliency in basic training by master resilience trainers, who themselves have gone through courses like the one taught in Philadelphia at the University of Pennsylvania.

Additionally, she said, soldiers will develop mental toughness through self-guided learning, based on assessments they will take online during basic training and every two years afterward. Mental fitness, she said, is like physical fitness; life-long and ongoing.

"It is something you are going to start when you come into the Army; if you are already in, you start in the middle of your career. And it is a long-term process. It is not something that you can do once, any more than you can get physically fit by one trip to the gym. This is not an individual single event. It is a way of looking at your psychological health as important as your physical health," says Gen. Cornum.

The training, the first of its kind in the military, is meant to improve performance in combat and head off the mental health problems, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide, that plague about one-fifth of troops returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.
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