Face of Defense: MP Builds Resilience in Soldiers, Families
By Dijon Rolle
U.S. Army Garrison Baden-Wuerttemberg Public Affairs
MANNHEIM, Germany, Jun. 11, 2010 Army Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Stoner says resilience is "the ability to have a positive outcome from negative situations." He should know.
With 25 years in the Army, the Georgia native is no stranger to change or to the ups and downs that often accompany military life.
In fact, it's one of the reasons he agreed to take on his latest mission as the master resiliency trainer for the 18th Military Police Brigade here.
In 2003, after returning from deployment, Stoner said he had some "major problems" readjusting, which were compounded by his marital problems. With support from his chain of command, he sought help at community mental health.
"Back in 2003, if you went to community mental health and said, ‘I need help,’ as an MP, they put you on a rubber gun squad," he said. "But my unit didn't do that, they supported me, and I was able to get the assistance that I needed to become an effective soldier again."
The skills Stoner said he learned from community mental health were similar to those of the resiliency training program.
"If I had learned these skills prior to my difficulty in 2003, I probably wouldn't have had those same problems,” he said. “That's why I believe in the program so much. It really helped me."
The resiliency training course is one component of the Army's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program designed to help soldiers, civilians and families become more resilient by increasing their strength in all five areas of fitness: physical, emotional, social, spiritual and family.
A master resiliency trainer is a soldier or civilian who has graduated from the Army's Master Resilience Training Course and has specialized training in teaching and applying the program's doctrine. The skills they learn are designed to help soldiers cope more effectively with stress, emotions and changes in their environment.
Trainers are responsible for teaching four modules: resilience, building mental toughness, building character strength and building strong relationships.
The training is conducted using several interactive classroom sessions. Small and large groups participate in mostly scenario-based exercises and dialogue.
All soldiers are required to complete 28.5 hours of MRT training and to take the Global Assessment Tool, a confidential online tool designed to let people know how they fare in the five areas of comprehensive fitness and where they can improve.
Stoner attended the Master Resilience Training Course at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, last year. The Army just opened an MRT facility at Fort Jackson, S.C.
"This program is going to teach soldiers how to deal with adversity a lot better. This isn't just something the Army threw together since 9/11," Stoner said. "It's a culmination of research that has been conducted by several different departments, most of them at the University of Pennsylvania, over the past 40-plus years."
Amy Cates, the health promotion officer for U. S. Army Garrison Baden-Württemberg, has played an active part in helping the command implement the Army's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program.
"Soldiers have always focused on a rigorous physical fitness training," Cates said, "but before this training, there was no program to teach soldiers how to deal with stress, work, physical training, family, personal problems and multiple deployments. Becoming mentally strong is just as important, if not more important, than physical strength."
Despite all the research and a strong push from Army officials, Stoner said he knows the MRT program will probably meet some resistance.
"A lot of people think it's a 'hold hands and make everybody feel good' type of thing," he said. "But the program works, and I believe that it will greatly assist not just the soldiers, but the families."
Stoner is realistic about any immediate impact the training may have on the soldiers themselves.
"This is not a magic bullet," he said. "This is not something that I am going to be able to sit there and teach the soldiers in 28.5 hours, and turn around and everything is going to be perfect in their unit. That's not the way it works.
"What is going to happen, though, is that it's going to give the soldiers a better idea on how to handle stressors," he continued. "And as they develop the skills and use them in their lives, the more resilient they'll become, and maybe three, four, five years down the road, we'll actually see a large decrease in, hopefully , domestic violence, drug abuse, sexual assault and other problems."
In addition to his work as a trainer, Stoner is the only MRT facilitator in the 21st Theater Support Command. Facilitators receive more in-depth training on the program and the research behind it.
The program is open to all soldiers, family members and Army civilians.