Story by MAJ Jamie Delk, Public Affairs, JFHQs, S.C. National Guard
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Life is stressful. Military life can prove to be exceptionally stressful. On top of daily priorities of family, work and home, add in training, deployments and time away from family and that could be a recipe for trouble.
Army Regulation 350-53 Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness states, “Resilience is the mental, physical, emotional, and behavioral ability to face and cope with adversity, adapt to change, recover, learn, and grow from setbacks.”
Military leaders at every level are urged to watch and think about their service member’s behavior – especially after 12 years of war. The S.C. National Guard’s Resilience, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention program, also known as R3SP, takes a hard stance and dedicates quality time to maintain our Guard members and families.
“We are here to promote resilience in our Guard members and families, and to develop leaders who can recognize high stress or risk factors in our ranks,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Jim St. Clair, S.C. National Guard R3SP program manager. “We need everyone to mitigate these factors through interaction, intervention and appropriate follow-up.”
A critical piece of the resilience pie are the Master Resilience Trainers, found within each company-size unit of the S.C. Army National Guard. A Master Resilience Trainer (MRT) offers strength-based positive tools to aid service members, leaders and families in the ability to not only grow, but to thrive in the face of challenges and bounce back from adversity.
“Master Resilience Trainers are important because they are the commander’s subject matter experts for resilience and run his or her resilience program,” said St. Clair.
This task asks much of Soldiers. To become an MRT, a Soldier must attend a 10-day resilience program that teaches students 14 skills that enhance effectiveness and well-being by building mental toughness.
“During the first six days, students are introduced to the concepts of the skills and then they apply the skills personally in a small group environment,” said Army Maj. Sylvia Lopez, MRT officer in charge at Fort McCoy Training Center. “During days 7-10, the students practice teaching portions of each skill to the instructors, take an exam, and walk away with a training plan to teach MRT in their respective organization.”
“The training teaches me how to capture the way I think when stressed and my reactions to those stressful events,” said Army Staff Sgt. Leslie Krause, South Carolina Army National Guard Suicide Prevention program manager, “It allows me to get a better look at how I process that information.” Krause has been trained as an MRT 1 and MRT 2.
There are 14 classes, 30 hours total, of mandated resilience training that a Soldier must receive yearly. Active duty can train on these 14 classes in one month, while the National Guard conducts training over drill weekends throughout the year. MRTs are the only ones who can teach these 14 classes.
“The R3SP Section conducts a three-day resiliency workshop known as the Resilience Trainer Assistant (RTA) Training,” said Krause. “Since this course was started, we have trained over 750 service members, family members, volunteers, and SCNG employees in resiliency skills.”
“In addition to offering the RTA course, the Family Readiness Support Assistants have also incorporated the resiliency skills into Family Readiness Group trainings and in Yellow Ribbon briefings for each phase of deployment,” added Ivey Hatfield, South Carolina Senior Family Readiness Support Assistant, who is a qualified MRT 1.
“Everyone knows how important it is to be resilient and to be able to bounce back,” said Hatfield. “It’s our jobs as MRTs to be able to teach these skills in a way that service members, families, whomever, are able to walk away knowing how to successfully apply these skills in their lives.”
“Even the most resilient individuals can learn how to enhance their effectiveness as a leader and optimize their performance,” added Lopez. “It almost sounds too simplistic – change your thinking in order to change your consequences; but habits are hard to change.”
The bottom line is that everyone needs help sometimes.
“Resilience is important because everyone, Soldiers, Airmen and families, will face adversity and not at the time of our own choosing,” said St. Clair. “But what we can choose is how we respond to that adversity. Resilience training gives us the tools and strength to grow and flourish in the face of challenges and bounce back from adversity.”