Back at Fort Leavenworth after a short flight on a C-130 this afternoon.
One of the most interesting things we are hearing about is a new approach the Army is taking to fitness. I’ve been hearing about comprehensive soldier fitness for some time, and we are getting a taste of it during our time here.
The jist of comprehensive soldier fitness is that the Army has realized its past concepts about fitness — namely physical training and physical training only — are inherrently flawed. The leadership is honest about the Army’s problems related to rising suicide rates, domestic violence and mental illness. Comprehensive soldier fitness is an effort to change the Army’s culture and create soldiers that are healthy in every way.
The new philosophy takes into account five areas of a soldier’s fitness: physical, emotional, spiritual, social and family. Part of this means being more proactive about dealing with issues like post traumatic stress disorder and depression. The Army is also involving soldiers’ families in the program, giving them some of the same training the soldiers will get.
One of the comprehensive soldier fitness concepts the Army is about to implement across the service is resiliancy. Think of the way a tennis ball deforms when you squeeze it. When you let go, the ball returns to its original shape. The Army wants its soldiers to be able to deal with the physical and psychological stresses in their lives in much the same way, returning to their healthy selves after the challenges are over.
Soldiers will be taught, beginning in basic training, methods to deal with all kinds of stress. This strategy is a way of dealing with anxiety by returning yourself to rational thinking. Say, for example, that a soldier is deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan and calls home to get no answer. In a stressful environment, all kinds of things could go through that soldier’s head as to why his or her spouse isn’t answering. Resiliancy teaches the soldier to consider that the worst-case may not be the most likely case. While the soldier’s fear may be that his or her spouse is cheating, the most-likely scenario is that they simply left the house to go shopping or something similar.
When I get back to Oklahoma, I intend to follow-up on this concept with the Oklahoma National Guard. I’d like to know how they plan to implement comprehensive soldier fitness and when we can expect to see these methods put in place.
- Staff Writer Bryan Dean