FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- About 30 Fort Jackson Soldiers and civilians participated this week in a course at the University of Pennsylvania designed to help Soldiers and their families develop resilience.
But they did it from more than 600 miles away.
The group joined via video teleconference 200 Soldiers and civilians studying to be master resilience trainers. The class was addressed by Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr.
Monday's VTC was one portion of the 10-day resilience course that ended today with the group being certified to teach resilience concepts to Basic Combat Training Soldiers.
"The Master Resilience trainers who are here now are actually receiving the same training as BCT Soldiers so that they understand (the training) the Soldiers will go through," said Capt. Tracy Johnson, of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. Johnson was one of the course instructors.
BCT Soldiers will receive resilience training during the "Red Phase," and ideally during their first week, Johnson said. Because the training involves a lot of new terminology, she said, it was important to introduce the various concepts of the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program to the Soldiers and civilians who will interact with the training Soldiers.
The newly-certified trainers are not currently expected to teach the training, but can now do so should it become necessary, Johnson said.
Warrant Officer Sharon Mullens, an information systems technician with the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program, came to Fort Jackson to set up the VTC.
"Everyone knows that General Casey is extremely enthusiastic about the program," she said. "He wanted to have some face time with the Soldiers ... to reinforce how passionate he is about the program."
She said she thought it was important that Fort Jackson's Soldiers got the chance to see the emphasis senior leaders were putting on not just making Soldiers physically fit, but mentally fit, as well.
"I think it was great. They were elated that they were able to have that experience," she said, referring to the Fort Jackson students.
Casey's address was an open forum, she said, and allowed the students to ask questions and share experiences.
Casey emphasized during the VTC that the students were at the forefront of the Army's new strategy to provide more preventive tools to build resilience and enhance performance.
"You will be the first group to go out and help me bring this way of thinking to the Army," Casey said during a news conference and in an interview. "I firmly believe that this effort to build resilience and enhance performance is fundamentally necessary if we are going to sustain this force over the coming years."
Mullens said this week's training is the first step of many aimed at easing Soldiers' stress in the face of multiple deployments.
"We realize we're not going to change the mindset over night," she said. But she added, the goal is to "not only make us Army Strong, but mentally strong."
(Editor's note: Jim Garamone, Armed Forces Press Service, contributed to the report.)