USAREUR Chaplain's program provides senior leaders with tools for self-improvement

Chaplain (Col.) Ray Bailey illustrates the results of the command sergeants' major "life treasure hunt." The 15 participants tallied facts about their lives, including the number of permanent changes of station, number of military schools they had attended, their number of combat deployments, and the number of countries in which they've lived. The exercise illustrated to the CSMs how much experience they bring to the people in their lives. (Photo by Sgt. Maj. Lisa Hunter, USAREUR Public Affairs).

USAREUR Chaplain's program provides senior leaders with tools for self-improvement

By Sgt. Maj. Lisa M. Hunter, U.S. Army Europe Public Affairs
May 9, 2011

HEIDELBERG, Germany -- It’s lonely at the top, especially in the Army’s ranks where peers are few and the responsibilities are many. Hence the reason the U.S. Army Europe Chaplain, Col. Ray Bailey hosted Resiliency Training with 15 of the senior command sergeants major in USAREUR, May 2 – 4.

At a hotel in Bad Kissingen, a town located in Bavaria, Bailey gathered the CSMs to encourage them to practice what they teach.
“We, as leaders, make sure our Soldiers take care of themselves and their families, but we aren’t setting the example,” said Bailey. Senior leaders do the opposite.

They continuously put the mission first, leaving their family and their personal lives on the back burner. This, Bailey explained, becomes the model for our Soldiers.

Command Sgt. Major Thomas Capel, USAREUR, along with brigade and battalion CSMs from across USAREUR were the training audience.

The challenge facing the senior CSMs during the training – and every day – is to determine how to achieve balance between their professional and personal lives, Capel explained at the start of the training.

“We have this concept that if our Army mission fails, we fail. We have set that as our priority in life,” Capel said. “[Senior leaders] give up a lot of family and personal time to make sure the mission doesn’t fail.”

Bailey developed the Resiliency Training Program at the request of the former USAREUR commander, Gen. Carter Ham. He charged Bailey with taking care of the USAREUR senior leaders, because they have nobody looking after their well-being.

Bailey described the task using a phrase from Star Trek: “To boldly go where no man has gone before.”

Bailey’s resiliency training program has been so successful that it is now being used as the blueprint for resiliency training plan that chaplains Army-wide will use to teach resiliency to their Soldiers.

Bailey explained that resiliency is the ability to recover rapidly from illness, change or misfortune. It’s also the process of successfully adapting to a difficult or challenging life experience. Soldiers regularly experience events that require resiliency, events such as moving to new duty stations and starting a new job in a new unit.

“As leaders, you have experienced an intensely high level of sacrifice to get where you are today,” said Bailey.

The chaplain explained that leaders tend to bury themselves in the mission because that is where they feel a sense of control. This is usually the root cause for senior leaders having lost a sense of balance in their lives.

“In our family lives, we don’t have control, so we tend to go back to work, where we have control,” Bailey explained.
“We need to be able to say ‘It’s OK to take leave.’ We have developed a self-expectation that we always have to be there,” Capel added.

Capel pointed out the irony of how senior leaders take care of their Soldiers and the Soldiers’ families, but they do not take care of themselves or their own families. Because of this, senior leaders often live with the regrets of family events they missed because of missions.

Throughout, participants shared their views, illustrating how each of them was at a different level of balance or imbalance.

One stated that he combined a sense of spirituality, with physical activity and trying to maintain a healthy mental outlook to keep his balance. But another participant said she only realized that she needed to get her professional and personal lives back in balance after she experienced a significant loss.

“I realized I might be successful in my professional life, but not in my personal life,” she said. “I think about all the things I’ve missed in my daughter’s life. It’s hard for a child to understand why you can’t be there.”

With a healthy dose of humorous videos and anecdotes, Bailey shared with the CSMs several techniques they could use to build resiliency and achieve a better sense of life balance.

He discussed several strategies that would help the senior leaders get there. He encouraged the participants to find a sense of spiritual reflection by meditating, having a positive view and/or participating in your community. He also encouraged them to try to gain spiritual strength through forgiveness, forgiving yourself and others.

“If you don’t forgive, that emotion is going to turn to anger, bitterness, depression and burnout,” Bailey explained.

By developing resiliency, leaders learn that they have a support network of peers, friends and family who will help them develop and maintain balance in their lives.

Bailey encouraged the senior leaders to conduct resiliency training with their subordinates.

“If you can shoot a rifle, you can teach someone else to shoot a rifle. The same is true with teaching resilience,” Bailey concludes. He also reminded them that their unit chaplains could facilitate resiliency training for their Soldiers, too.

For more information on resiliency training for individual units, contact your unit chaplain or the USAREUR Office of the Chief of Chaplains at 370-6191.