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Resilience training team at Fort Riley aims to create stronger community

By Season Osterfeld | 1ST INF. DIV. POST | December 23, 2016

     “It’s about strengthening the Soldier and our community,” said Mike Ballard, Training Center manager. “It’s about building a stronger Army.”

     The Fort Riley Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness Training Center, a part of the Victory Center at 7285 Normandy Drive, has six master resilience trainers-performance experts who train and teach resilience and performance techniques and methods to Soldiers, their families and Department of the Army civilians.

     “It’s the ability to bounce back under pressure, under difficult circumstances,” said Performance Expert Joel Druvenga on what resilience is. “All of us through life have struggles, have stress, have things that knock us down a peg or two. It’s that ability to get yourself back to that baseline, to that optimum functioning ability to perform at your best. It’s to really get us to be at our best when they need to.”

     The performance experts work with Soldiers and their units, Department of the Army civilians, spouses and Family Readiness Groups to teach them the 26 skills of resilience and performance enhancement, such as goal setting, problem solving and assertive communication. Additionally, some of the Soldiers, DA civilians and FRG members they train go through a two week course to become master resiliency trainers themselves so they may teach their units, FRGs or colleagues 14 of the 26 skills.

     “We have spouses that are master resilience trainers and we really encourage a lot of our FRGs to have a representative that can teach the families the same 14 skills,” Ballard said.

     When teaching DA civilians, spouses and FRG members, as well as other groups, the performance experts offer some standard lessons, but tailor the lessons to the needs of the group, such as creating team building sessions if the group has recently changed members.

     For Soldiers and their units, they must be trained on all 14 of the 26 skills within a year. To do this, the performance experts train Soldiers through a two week course to become master resilience trainers and they become the primary instructors for their units.

     “The 14 skills are taught by the MRTs at the units, it’s a two week course to get to become an MRT,” Ballard said. “These skills are required by the Army, so in a one year period, they have to teach all these skills.”

     One such MRT is Sgt. 1st Class Hannah Nunley, formerly in the 97th Military Police Battalion, who used her training to create improvements in the program and reschedule it to quarterly training to better meet the needs of military police.

     “Sgt. Nunley did a wonderful job with the battalion, setting it up so that every quarter they had a resiliency day,” Ballard said.

     Each quarter, Nunley would teach three or four skills to her unit, successfully fixing a gap in their training and giving it a practical use outside the classroom. On one such training day, the Soldiers used the “real-time resilience” skill while working their way through an obstacle course with a partner. Soldiers outside the obstacle course would attempt to distract them by shouting, singing, yelling and more and they would use the skill to help them stay focused on their partner and the task at hand, successfully blocking out the distractions from their fellow Soldiers.

     “They would take the different skills that they were going to cover for the quarter and really operationalize it, so try to put it into real life scenarios as much as they could,” Druvenga said. “The struggle sometimes is the transferability … This was the next step for them, trying to figure out how to make these skills real.”

     The leadership of each unit decides when they training will occur and how to implement it for their Soldiers, alongside the MRT. However, at Fort Riley, each month has a designated skill to be taught with two months having two skills. For December, the skill is “goal setting” to line up in time with resolution people may plan with the start of the new year, Ballard said.

     The training can help Soldiers focus on the task at hand whether they are at the range, on a deployment, in the motor pool or working at their desk. Using the 14 skills from their training, Soldiers are able to put away stresses from the personal lives and focus on their work, he said.

     “It’s about being in that present moment and in that moment, what can you do to be at or best,” Druvenga said. “Even with the skill of energy management, it’s using even your downtime effectively to manage that energy, to rejuvenate … For our performance to be at its best, we need to be focused, locked in on that target.”

     The successfulness of the enhanced performance and resilience from CSF2 can be found in the Soldiers from Fort Riley who placed fifth in the Best Ranger competition, Druvenga said. The competitors went through the CSF2 program and used the skills they learned to help them perform at their best throughout the competition.

     “If you watch the Olympics, what comes to mind, when you see a skier getting ready to go down the hill, you can kind of see them going through the motions in their mind, they’ve got that imagery as they’re working through it,” Ballard said. “That’s the kind of scope that these guys work, but they do it with the Army.”

     There’s more uses to resilience and enhanced performance training than just physical and athletic activities. The skills learned can be applied in everyday life and while doing desk work as well, Ballard said.

     “It’s important to note that everything we do in the military is performance, even if it’s writing somebody’s award or responding to emails or making phone calls, every one of those are performance-based things, so it’s not just for those that are athletes that can shoot a ball or be in the presence of the moment,” he said. “It’s also for Soldiers so they can do their jobs most effectively.”

     To learn more about the CSF2 Training Center, visit csf2.army.mil/training-centers or call 785-239-8835.

 

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