Combat brigade Soldiers talk deployment and resiliency

By Spc. Adam P. Garlington, U.S. Army Europe Public Affairs
Sept. 24, 2010

Staff Sgt. Christopher A. Orta, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team rear detachment

Staff Sgt. Christopher A. Orta, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team rear detachment cadre prepares for the Master Resiliency Trainer course September 13 through 24 in Grafenwoehr, Germany. At the course, Orta and other U.S. Army in Europe leaders learned resiliency training skills and how to teach others to be resilient. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Adam P. Garlington)

GRAFENWOEHR, Germany – Soldiers in brigade combat teams endure unique experiences and hardships that increases stress during deployments.

Some of those Soldiers attended the Master Resiliency Training course here Sept. 13 through 24 to learn skills and techniques to help themselves and others in their units recover from deployment challenges.

Soldiers attending the training said they learned skills and techniques that could help them deal with personal issues they may face during their deployments.

Resiliency training teaches Soldiers who are fighting adversity to proactively solve problems rather than let problems evolve into a crisis that needs intervention, according to Lt. Col. Ronald D. Daniel, U.S. Army in Europe Comprehensive Soldier Fitness coordinator.

A mortarman with the 172nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Staff Sgt. Allen M. Martinez experienced emotional and social problems that affected his personal and professional life after the loss of a friend.

“In Operation Iraqi Freedom, I lost one of my best friends,” he said. “I would not show up to work on time and isolated myself. I let this event overwhelm me.”

Martinez said the skills he learned in resiliency training will help those who find themselves in similar situations.

He said if you take time to put things in perspective you can have a completely new outlook on the situation. “Putting it in perspective” is a technique learned in the course that shows how a resilient mind can overcome adversities in life, he said.

Martinez shared another technique he described as an active-constructive response.

By simply responding and engaging a person, showing through body language that what they’re saying is important, goes a long way, he said.

“Someone says, ‘Hey, I just bought a brand new car today,”’ Martinez said. “Say, it’s awesome. Tell me some more about your car.” “Ask what kind of car. Try to keep the person in a positive mindset,” he explained. “That person may be having a tough week, but if you build on that positive news, it may help prevent a future problem.”

Another aspect of the resiliency training taught was learning about “catastrophizing.” Some Soldiers preparing for their first deployment experience high amounts of anxiety and automatically expect the worst outcome.

Staff Sgt. Sean West, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment motor transport operator said he experienced catastrophic thinking himself.

“A person’s negative attitude influences his actions and makes the worst outcome possible,” said West. He said the training showed the way to defeat “catastrophizing” is to recognize the best outcome, recognize the most likely outcome, and then plan for the most likely outcome.

Communicating openly and talking before problems compound is another proactive approach learned during the course, said Staff Sgt. Christopher A. Orta, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team rear detachment cadre, and veteran of numerous deployments.

On his deployments, Orta said Soldiers’ mission performance was sometimes hindered because they were reluctant to approach leaders with potentially embarrassing personal issues.

“They need to realize a leader will do everything to ensure their problems are resolved,” said Orta. “They can trust their leaders because 99 percent of the time those leaders have experienced the same problems.”

The resiliency training is a valuable asset to the 172nd, 173rd and 2nd SCR combat brigade units, said Orta, who said he plans to begin working on a training program for Soldiers in his unit once he returns.

Martinez agreed with Orta. He said, “I’m not a psychologist, but I know we can try the resiliency techniques before making a drastic decision. Soldiers are taught to react. Instead of just reacting and making mistakes sometimes Soldiers need a minute to think about their actions.

“That extra minute will probably end up saving someone’s life,” he said.