Training the leaders of tomorrow’s military

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Joshua Mead
  • 103rd Airlift Wing, Public Affairs
Enlisted members and officers from the Connecticut Air and Army National Guard, gathered Sept. 11 and 12, 2010, to undergo an extensive training seminar held on base. The topic of discussion was leadership and resiliency, or what Col. Denny Yount, commander, 103rd Operations Group, and trainer for Connecticut's resiliency program, referred to as tools in a tool box.

"For the overall resiliency training what we are trying to give people is, in the terms of the training, a tool box," said Yount. "It's really about life coping skills."

The program is rooted in Kansas after the state's adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Tod M. Bunting, found he had the same number of suicides and combat related deaths in one month. The program, in its early days, related exclusively with suicide prevention and post-traumatic stress disorder as well as other combat related issues, said Col. Frank N. Detorie, commander, 103rd Airlift Wing, in the September edition of the 103rd Airlift Wing's Flying Yankee News program. The program has since evolved to teach skills to deal with home and work stress.

As one of the initial states to get on board with the expansion of the resiliency program from Kansas, the Connecticut Guard is determined to train almost all of its Soldiers and Airmen about resiliency, said Detorie. The first and second training sessions accommodated 40 guardsmen each, with a goal to train roughly 100 more by the end of the year.

The official name of the training is called 'Flash Forward,' instilling the idea of instead of looking back, how does someone move forward?

The program started in Connecticut around May of 2009 according to Ms. Kathleen Saucier, director of psychological health for the Connecticut National Guard and is, "setup up like a front-line leader course. It is directed at E-5 (non-commissioned officer) and above."

While there are plans to expand the program to ranks below non-commissioned officers, the program is designed around leadership and assessing leadership for not only the individual but for families as well, said Saucier.

The program is divided into modules and is extensive, teaching the importance of eating right, sleeping well, getting enough exercise and having a positive outlook on the world. The first module is about leadership and what makes a good leader versus a bad leader. The program also stresses the importance of the family.

"The next part we look at is the family part and having a family involved. It's not about an FRG (family readiness group), it's not about having those family support groups; it's more for leaders to understand why it's so important for a family to feel a part of your unit. And we give some strategies and teach some strategies on how leaders can bring their families in," said Saucier.

The program even includes a module about spirituality, but as Saucier said, it's not necessarily about religion, but more about the different ways someone can learn about ones self and the world and how you fit into the world.

According to Saucier, since the issues active duty and the Guard face are different and the time constraints the guard has, the program is catered to the Guard and is designed to help guardsmen with the challenges they face.

"The majority of those members come only once a month, and that's the only time they are seen by their leadership. For their family, they are not engulfed completely in an active-duty status; they don't understand that until their member gets deployed. And then, they are all of the sudden thrown into it so it's very much geared towards that reserve component," said Saucier.

"Especially as a guardsman, we have our national mission, we have our state mission and everybody has family and friends and everything else and sometimes you just need those life-coping skills to get through the day," said Yount.

The overwhelming feedback from the various classes Yount has taught has been outstanding especially from long-term guardsmen, asking where this training was years ago, Yount said.

"There is nothing earth-shattering, there is no rocket science about this, but it is a very good detailed-concentrated method that works or can work, because everybody has had times where they needed to pull something out of the bag," said Yount.

According to Yount, studies have been done with prisoners of war and women who have been victims of sexual crimes and have had fewer instances of PTSD and depression because of 10 specific mental characteristics that are pointed out in the training.
The training itself draws its power from the personal stories of the individuals shown in the videos and the drawing out of the personal stories of the individuals taking the course, said Yount.

The stigma behind the military's mandatory all-day training, or the "three dirty words," as Yount referred to them, has clout with resiliency training. Yount said he feels the positive feedback after two full days of training validates that the program is a good program and that they are doing some good work.