FORT HUNTER LIGGETT, Calif. –
Resiliency is a skill Soldiers are encouraged to develop, but they’re not expected to go it alone.
During Operation Cold Steel II
at Fort Hunter Liggett, Calif., leaders from U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command
requested two teams of Master Resilience Trainer and Performance Experts from the Ready and Resilient Performance Training Center to assist in helping their Soldiers develop resiliency skills and hopefully contribute to higher qualification scores.
“We were contacted by them to come and support their groups so we have been tasked that as our primary mission, to help enhance the quality of performance and the qualifications on the ranges for them to all pass and qualify,” said Trey McCalla.
“We’re applying the master resilience training skills along with incorporating some of our performance enhancement mental skills that is part of our curriculum,” said Kellen Lee. “Sitting in on the courses with the students, with the Soldiers and finding opportunities within the scope of the class to inject our skills in the context and in the vocabulary that’s being used in the course so that they can be better prepared when it’s qualification time.”
The teams teach a variety of techniques including self-awareness, goal setting and deliberate breathing.
Self-awareness techniques are designed to allow the Soldier to recognize how they react to a situation and the emotions and thoughts that come from the situation and interpret them in a way that is productive and allows optimal performance, according to McCalla.
“I think aside from the self-awareness tool or skill that we’re teaching them, just to provide the ability to interpret performance from a different perspective, especially for a lot of these Soldiers going through the first time,” said Lee. “The task of shooting or using one of these weapon systems can be somewhat overwhelming so we’re trying to provide some skill that can mitigate some of that interpretation of that particular qualification in whatever weapon system they’re on, but also introduce them to as many of our performance enhancement or our MRT skills that are applicable to them. Our goal is to get to know the groups we’ve been tasked to support on a level that we can potentially identify areas or skills of need that we can provide support on.”
Many Soldiers hear MRT and think of PowerPoint and not of something palpable they can use.
“Our job is to know the material and deliver it in a way where it becomes real for them. It’s not just another training, not just another PowerPoint, but it’s something that is useful,” said Lee. “They can walk away with a specific skill that they can choose to apply and just be more deliberate with that particular skill. Another big one from me is making it real, less theory and more tangibility.”
To teach these skills, all the performance experts not only have a higher education background, but also go through a specific curriculum.
“Most of us have master’s degrees in sport or performance psychology, some are at the PHD level, but primarily the MRT skills are rooted in positive psychology, which when you get the job, that’s what we are trained up on pretty early in the process because the performance side of the job is rooted in the sport and performance psychology which most of us have a background in,” said Lee.
“We have a directorate of curriculum who takes a look at all the research and has developed a specific curriculum utilizing the research in the sports and performance psychology realm so that it’s standardized across our entire program,” he added. “All the MRT PEs are fluent in the curriculum and we all teach the same material across all performance centers.”
With this background, many of the PEs have worked with athletes as well.
“Most people in sport psychology work with athletes and that’s primarily the population people would work with outside of the military,” said Lee. “We both have worked with athletes outside and from a skill-set perspective, the skills are all the same and that’s why they easily translate into a program we’re a part of.”
Both McCalla and Lee agree they don’t prefer athletes or Soldiers. Their goal is the same for both.
“Our role, no matter if it’s with Soldiers or athletes is to help them accomplish their mission more effectively and provide them with just a different perspective or mental skill-set to do so,” said Lee. “That’s our ultimate mission: to help them accomplish theirs.”
“It’s hard because I look at it in terms of I’m no more proud of one than I am the other,” said McCalla. “Each individual I get a chance to work with, I want them to be successful and I don’t want to give any particular credence to one person vs. another.”
While they don’t see any more importance in coaching Soldiers, the opportunity is special to them.
“It’s an honor to be able to do this job, to be perfectly frank,” said McCalla. “Those who are actually out fighting and defending our country and me not having done that myself, this is a way I can provide that to them and thank them … knowing what it is that Soldiers have to go through and when that accomplishment happens and you can see that and you can tell that air of confidence about them, it’s very rewarding to know they’re going to go out and there is a good chance they’re going to be ok. That they’re going to come back.”
The team is humble about their part in a Soldier’s success.
“It is very rewarding. It’s not so much of what it is that we did and how we helped them, it’s what the Soldiers were able to recognize in themselves and how they were able to make those adjustments and achieve (success) on their own (with us) giving them just some slight insights, some tools that they can recognize,” said McCalla. “For me, I’m always so proud of them achieving it and knowing I was able to give them just a slight insight that they can take and continue on with for the rest of their Army career and personal lives.”
“I definitely share that sense of pride,” added Lee. “I would never ever take credit for the successes they experience and just seeing them be able to put some of the things we talk about into practice is where that pride comes from. Seeing them, when we teach them a deliberate breath and I visibly see them incorporate that into the weapon qualification or performance, it gets us going and that’s why we do what we do: to have those little moments.”
The teams have recently been mostly focused on Soldiers struggling with the Army Physical Fitness Test and connective counseling or C2. C2 allows the six person staff at the performance center to reach the more than 200 U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers within their footprint. They do this through phone and video conferencing. The counseling is usually focused on anything in a Soldier’s personal life.
While supporting an exercise like Operation Cold Steel II is not a common occurrence for the teams, they are excited when opportunities like this present themselves.
“When the opportunity comes up and it’s available for us to be a part of an operation or supporting a particular way, it’s invigorating, it’s exciting, it’s thrilling,” said McCalla. “To be behind the scenes of it all and recognize those moments, we know why we’re here.”
While coming to an operation is exhilarating for this team, their hope is for Soldiers to take what they learn beyond just the training environment.
“That outside life, when we work with them here, how they utilize it with family, how they utilize it with other Soldiers who haven’t had the opportunity to go through the training and that the word is getting through and people are absorbing it from them is what makes is great,” said McCalla. “That’s the value and importance of it.”
“They’ve expressed tons of gratitude, but it’s reciprocated,” added Lee. “We’re grateful for them to allow us to get to know them, them opening up and providing them some skills that you can use forever, the rest of your Army career and outside of that as well.”
For more information on the Ready and Resilient program or to request support visit: https://www.army.mil/readyandresilient