CHEYENNE — The Wyoming Army National Guard is arming its troops with a new weapon: a skills set to cope with the stresses of military life.
According to media reports, suicides in the Army have outnumbered combat deaths this year. That statistic serves as a stirring reminder of the importance of not only post-traumatic support but of proper mental and emotional conditioning, said Lt. Col. Samuel E. House of the Wyoming Guard.
“Military suicides have long been an issue within the military,” House said. “The idea behind resilience training is to minimize that — as well as address other issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.”
The Army has offered resilience training, formerly called “battle-mind training” for several years. But it was only recently that the Army began to mandate that specific numbers of troops go through it.
Those troops, he said, can then use the lessons they’ve learned to help other soldiers cope with the day-to-day stresses of military life, such as the disconnect that can sometimes occur between military and civilian life.
“It’s designed to look at the cultural aspect of it, not just the combat piece of it,” House said. “There are just as many suicides among those who have deployed versus those who have not deployed. Marital problems, it’s the same thing.”
It’s not uncommon for soldiers to assume a pessimistic disposition, whether it’s due to the violence they witness overseas or whether they’re coping with being separated from family and loved ones, House tells the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.
Others can cope with military life but may have a hard time readjusting to civilian life, where responsibilities and expectations may be different than previously.
“Individuals who have done their four years or eight years or 20 years, it’s interesting to see: Some people get out and go off and are very successful, other individuals, it’s all they know,” he said.
While many soldiers are eventually able to accept their new roles, House said once they do return, they have to adjust to family life all over again.
At the same time, a soldier’s spouse may have settled into his or her own new routine, which they then have to alter once the soldier returns home.
For that reason, one of the big focuses of the resilience training is getting soldiers to consider more than just the worst-case scenario.
All too often, House said, some soldiers may assume they’re being cheated on or left behind.
“It’s building mental toughness,” he said. “It’s looking at an issue and looking at all the possibilities.
“You’re not just looking at, ‘Hey, my wife is cheating on me!’ It’s looking at all the possibilities before jumping to conclusions.”
Resilience training focuses on six core competencies: self-awareness, self-regulation, optimism, mental agility, strength of character and connection. Each competency is then developed through seven primary skills that soldiers are trained to make part of their thought processes.
House said these skills are usually approached in the form of questions about an issue — how the issue makes the soldier feel — and then identifying the worst, best, and most likely outcomes.
“There are all kinds of things that go through a soldier’s mind,” he said. “This training is meant to help the individual look at it from a holistic perspective.”
The Army has mandated that a certain proportion of troops go through the training with specific quotas for both master resilience trainers and resistance training assistants.
Master trainers are also able to train more assistants in their units.
Resilience training for Wyoming troops is currently being done at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colo., though the master training is done in Pennsylvania. So far, 15 Wyoming Army Guard troops have done the master training with 18 more finishing the assistant’s course.