Resilience Training is Good for Soldiers, and Good for Spouses, Too

 

Today’s guest blog is from from Military Spouse, Jessi Mitchell. Below Mitchell shares her experience after attending the Army’s Master Resilience Trainer course. 

I was lucky enough to attend the Master Resilience Trainer (MRT) course, offered by the U.S. Army’s Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness (CSF2) program, in the summer of 2012 at Fort Campbell, Ky. This was the first time since this course was first offered to Soldiers that it was also open to Army spouses as part of a pilot program.

Resilience is a buzz word that has been thrown around a lot lately, but what exactly is resilience?  CSF2 defines resilience as the ability to grow and thrive in the face of challenges and bounce back from adversity.  CSF2 trains Master Resilience Trainers to teach resilience skills to Master Resilience Trainers over an intensive 10-day course. It is eight to nine hours a day, in which 12 resilience skills are taught through lectures, discussions, and practical exercises.  After being nominated by our Brigade Command Team, and interviewed by a panel of Division leadership and Master Resilience Trainers, I and 29 other Army spouses broke new ground by participating in this course alongside 30 Soldiers. While the Soldiers were required to be there, our group of spouses were volunteers.  We fought to be there.  We were there to learn and grow.

As soon as we started the training, I was hooked. The material just made sense to me. The course put into words things that I already knew or saw happening around me, but that I couldn’t explain.  For example, there’s a concept in the course called Thinking Traps.  One Thinking Trap is called Mind Reading:  assuming that you know what another person is thinking or expecting them to know what you are thinking.  I recognized that was me, especially with my husband, and it’s a real communication blocker, particularly in our closest relationships.

Jessi Mitchell participates in the Master Resilience Trainer (MRT) course.

Because we had a mix of Soldiers and spouses in the course, we were able to mutually benefit from each other’s perspectives.  They tended to think about the skills in the context of handling Soldiers, while we thought about how the skills would help us see our families through the challenges of military life.  The Soldiers also benefited from our eagerness to be there.  While this training was part of their job, we spouses were there with a different drive and motivator.  Our buy-in to the material helped to make many of the Soldiers more open to the training.

After the training was over, I noticed that by using the skills I was making subtle, gradual changes in my family life.  My husband and I became increasingly self-aware, had greater self-regulation and mental agility (flexibility in thinking), and we were creating a lifestyle that was continually positive.

Two weeks after the course was over, my husband deployed with his brigade, 3rd Brigade Combat Team “Rakkasans”, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), to Afghanistan.  As a new MRT, I taught my first resilience course to a classroom of other spouses from our Brigade, who were also facing deployment.  Because it came at a critical time in their lives, the training was an especially positive experience.  We had a classroom of students who had volunteered to be there.  They came with open minds and they were there to learn how to deal with the craziness that we call Army life.  Because the course improved their ability to handle the stresses in their lives, these spouses were better able to support their Soldier.  Further, they were receiving the same training and were exposed to the same material that many of their Soldiers have received, creating a common language and topic of interest.  We all know that knowledge is power, and I truly believe that this knowledge we were sharing gave these spouses the power to conquer this deployment.  They did not just survive, they thrived.

My husband and I recently moved into leadership positions within the Army – he  took a company command and I have taken on the role of the Family Readiness Group (FRG) leader.  With this training as a foundation, we have experienced both personal and professional growth in how we view our leadership roles, and our goals and mission for these next few years.

And while the cycle of deployments is winding down, I believe that Resilience Training is needed more than ever.  Many of the Soldiers currently serving and their families have only known rapid deployments, and have become accustomed to the high intensity, high adrenaline lifestyle that comes with them.  Now they are going to have to adjust to Garrison life, which comes with its own types of stresses. In the long run, spouse MRTs are going to be a positive growth agent for the Army as they help to integrate these skills across the entire Army family and provide an expansive perspective for both Soldiers and spouses.

For more information about the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness program, visit http://csf2.army.mil.