Battaglia Cites Resilience as Key to Solving Suicide Issue
By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 20, 2012 Resilience is the key to solving the military’s suicide problem, the senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today.
And the Total Force Fitness program is the key to developing resilience, Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia said during a Defense Department suicide prevention forum at the Pentagon.
Resilient families, units and organizations are better able to cope with adversity, Battaglia said, noting that resilience allows space to develop courses of action when confronted with problems.
“We’re brought up in the military … to be problem solvers,” he said. “We just can’t seem to crack the code, and that’s the excruciating pain that you see [Defense] Secretary [Leon E.] Panetta share in some of his public announcements as … we attempt to get our arms around this specific issue.”
Described in Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction 3405.01, the Total Force Fitness program is a plan for understanding, assessing and maintaining service members' well-being and sustaining their ability to carry out missions.
The program is holistic, Battaglia said. Each of its eight “wedges” addresses a particular aspect of fitness: social, physical, environmental, medical and dental, nutritional, spiritual, psychological and behavioral.
The plan is a working document, he said, and discussions are ongoing about including additional factors that contribute to overall health, such as rest and financial fitness.
“We like to pronounce Total Force Fitness in its acronym, TFF -- pronounce it ‘tough’ -- because when you say some things, similarly, you start to believe in them,” Battaglia said. “We want our individuals and service members and families to think that … they are tough -- mentally tough, psychologically tough [and] nutritionally tough.”
The approach is about overall health. “I use Total Force Fitness because I really didn’t know how unfit I was until I really dove into this,” he said. From a holistic standpoint, he added, he wasn’t doing as well as he could be.
Battaglia said the beauty of the program is that wedges can be added to service-specific programs. For example, although the Air Force’s Comprehensive Airman Fitness program uses only four of the TFF domains, “there’s nothing stopping the individual airman or family or organization from taking a wedge from this holistic design and … sticking it into their tailored plan.”
For Total Force Fitness to work, Battaglia said, it’s important for people to be honest with themselves. “Do an assessment of where you really feel you are in regards to a level of fitness,” he said.
It’s also important, he said, that people think beyond the traditional meaning of “fitness” in the military culture.
“When you mention fitness,” he said, “we as military members automatically dive into … run time or dead arm hangs or pullups or pushups.” That ship is big and slow to turn, he acknowledged, but DOD is trying to change that mindset throughout the services. “Fitness is much, much larger than just our physical capability and stamina and endurance,” he said.
The plan centers on the belief that no single factor is wholly responsible for force fitness, Battaglia said.
“There’s a partnership here with our medical corps and line level leadership,” he said. “I don’t feel that this is a medicinal solution. … This is written by, for and with line leaders,” he said, and it allows for “alternative and complementary methods of wellness.”
Those methods might include yoga, meditation or acupuncture, he said.
Whether the right balance is 70 percent leadership and 30 percent medicine, Battaglia said, he doesn’t know. But the plan is designed to help operational leaders develop solutions to that question, he added.