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A new course: resilience school to open on Fort Jackson

Jan 14, 2010

By Susanne Kappler, Fort Jackson Leader

FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- When Gen. George Casey, Army chief of staff, discussed Comprehensive Soldier Fitness during his visit to Fort Jackson in July, he said the installation had great potential to be an important part of the program. That potential will be realized with the opening of the Army's master resilience training school on Fort Jackson, which is scheduled for April.

The school will host a 10-day course based on the positive psychology program developed at the University of Pennsylvania. About 1,800 Soldiers and civilians are expected to attend the course annually.

Lt. Col. Scott Heintzelman, director of Victory University, which oversees the school, said that every One Station Unit Training drill sergeant and Advanced Individual Training platoon sergeant eventually will participate in the training. In addition, one noncommissioned officer per brigade and battalion, one DA civilian per brigade, as well as other key cadre and trainers, will attend the school, he said. Eventually, the Army plans to expand the program to include family members.

Army officials have been working since May with the university's instructors to tailor the program for military use.

"Soldiers are going to (learn) life skills and coping skills -- skills that are going to help them be better and more effective leaders," said Sgt. Maj. Stanley Johnson, headquarters TRADOC, who is serving as a liaison between Victory University and the University of Pennsylvania.

Command Sgt. Maj. Teresa King, Drill Sergeant School commandant, participated in the training at the University of Pennsylvania last year. She said Soldiers will benefit greatly from learning resiliency skills.

"(The course), in my mind, readies people recovering from a hardship or going through a hardship to come out better than they were before," she said. "People tend to view challenges and hardships negatively, but now, I think with the resiliency skills (taught) in this program, they will welcome them and use them to better themselves."

Heintzelman said that the idea is for graduates of the program to teach those skills in their units.

The classes will be taught by civilian and military instructors. The hiring of 22 civilians is already under way. In addition, 13 Soldiers will be assigned to the school. Heintzelman said that the combination of military and civilian staff is an ideal way to ensure continuity while maintaining a staff that connects to its students.

"You have military (staff) that can connect right away - a constant influx of new people - tempered by long-term civilian employees who will hopefully serve for (a long time) and develop some real expertise in the area," he said.

The school is scheduled to open with a pilot class April 5, which will be taught by University of Pennsylvania faculty, assisted by the school's civilian instructors. The first group of students will include graduates of the AIT Platoon Sergeant Course and the Soldiers who will work at the school.

The first regular class will not begin until May 24, which gives the faculty time to review lessons learned from the pilot class.

"When we finish on April 16, we have five weeks to make any changes, to conduct any kind of retraining, to do anything else before we start teaching our first class," Heintzelman said. "Even then, we start teaching only small numbers of students through the end of July. It's not until August that we start doing our full capacity. There's sort of a deliberate gradual ramp-up."

The capacity will be two simultaneous classes of 60 students.

Heintzelman said standing up the school is a massive logistical effort for Fort Jackson. "Almost every key leader on Fort Jackson is directly involved in making it happen."

The training will be conducted in the former Company E, 369th Adjutant General Battalion barracks on Magruder Avenue, which is undergoing $2.5 million in renovations to make it suitable for its new function. The work started just before Christmas and is scheduled to be completed mid-March.

"The facilities will be quite nice," Heintzelman said. "That's a significant amount of money (spent) in a short period of time. ... We're basically taking troop barracks and converting them into classrooms."

Bryan Tempio, resident engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Fort Jackson, said that despite the short suspense, the project is on track.

"Normally we have a lot of time to do something like this," said Tempio, whose office manages the construction contract. "Everybody's cooperating and understands the urgency behind (the project)."

The building will include classrooms of various sizes and office space.

"It's going to be set up almost like a university," Heintzelman said. "We're trying to replicate, down to the lowest level of detail, how it's done at the University of Pennsylvania. That program has been successful, it's been tested; and so we're trying to take that exact program and replicate it here."


Master resilience training is one of four elements of the Army's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program. The program is designed to strengthen Soldiers' psychological, emotional and mental well being through individual assessments as well as virtual and classroom training.

The other three elements of the program are:

- Global Assessment Tool: An online assessment that evaluates a Soldier's emotional, social, spiritual and family strength.

- Comprehensive Resilience Modules: Online tools to develop emotional, social, spiritual and family strength.

- Sustainment Resilience Training: Build Soldiers' inner strength. The training will be applied throughout a Soldier's career.

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