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PHOTO CAPTION:  At Fort Knox, Todd Ryska trains a new class of sport psychologists who will return to other installations to work with training centers there.

November 21, 2013
By Maureen Rose, IMCOM

Editor's Note: This is the first part of a three-part series.

A team of 11 sport psychologists is at Fort Knox this week working on their certification to become Master Resilience Training Performance Experts. The MRT-PEs are part of the Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness program. While most of the sport psychologists have little experience working with Soldiers, they are uniquely qualified for these jobs because of their educational backgrounds; they have master's or PhDs in sport psychology.

So why does the Army need sport psychologists? Simple: the answer lies in the Army's realization that Soldiers are tactical athletes. The research has proven that training with a sport psychologist can help any athlete--military or otherwise--go from being good to excellent.

The reasoning lies in a basic premise that can also help Soldiers develop more resilient lifestyles--skills that the Army desperately needs to keep itself and its Soldiers ready and able to meet the challenges of the modern world.

In the world of CSF2 the premise is that TPC--or thought-performance connection--influences consequences. As one student explained it, thoughts are the first step of actions. By learning to recognize counterproductive negative thoughts and convert them to positive, productive ideas, Soldiers (and anyone else) can control their consequences , the actions that are rooted in their thoughts.

It's really not all that zen; the Army has adopted a program that converts Soldiers to better, more resilient people. Better people make better Soldiers.

Resilience is the ability "to take a punch," according to Moon Mullins, the CSF2 Training Center Manager at Fort Knox. In other parlance, resilience is the ability to grow and thrive when faced with adversity.

Notice that the definition doesn't say IF you face adversity, but WHEN you face adversity, because everyone experiences adversity at some time in his life. However, the definition of adversity varies widely since one person's perception of adversity may not cause another to bat an eye.

The CSF2 program is loaded with tools to help Soldiers learn resiliency and the Army has mandated that all Soldiers will train on the 12 basic resilience skills at least once a year. That company level training is provided by Master Resilience Trainers, who are Soldiers, usually noncommissioned officers. The MRT-PEs train Soldiers to become MRTs.

So far, the Army has seen that the resilience skill set is most helpful for the younger Soldiers, since most senior Soldiers have developed resilience skills on their own--even if they may have different names for them. In fact, one MRT-PE described a course at the Sergeants Major Academy wherein the group appeared resistant, asking the instructor to "tell us something we don't already know."

The MRT-PEs are skilled educators, and so fairly quickly managed to help the sergeants major see that the MRT course would enable them to translate their resilience skills and life experiences to the younger Soldiers. (We all have seen people who are very knowledgeable but don't know how to transfer their know-how to others.) Once convinced of the ability to train young recruits faster and more effectively, the senior NCOs were all into CSF2.

At Fort Knox, Dr. Tiz Arnold has worked in the CSF2 program about five years. She explained the certification course isn't to teach the sport psychologists how to teach as much as it is to learn what to teach; in other words, to learn the Army's product, lingo and culture.

"Getting used to teaching Soldiers is part of that," she said.

Arnold had no military affiliations when she began her work at Fort Knox; she was a greenhorn. But now that she's been here a while, she said she finds the work very satisfying.

"I feel working with military people is much more rewarding than working with athletes. I have learned (Soldiers) are an amazing bunch of people," she said. "Hearing them say that this training is going to save their marriages makes it worthwhile."

In the Army's grand wire diagram of functions, the resilience and performance enhancing training is part of the CSF2, which in turn, is part of the larger Ready and Resilient Campaign.

"We are the training and execution arm of R2C," Mullins explained.

The program is so new, the Army Regulation to cover it hasn't been published yet, although it's expected soon. The training, however, is becoming familiar throughout the Army since it is being implemented at so many levels.

According to Sgt. 1st Class Eric Tobin, who works fulltime with the CSF2 at Department of the Army Headquarters, the terminology is being recognized because the resilience training begins at Basic Combat Training and then is reinforced at unit training, Warrior Leader Courses, Advanced Leader Courses, Senior Leader Courses as well as the Sergeants Major Academy, plus Basic Officer Leadership Courses on up to the Army War College.

Tobin wasn't always an MRT fan; when he was exposed to the concepts at Drill Sergeant School, he was unimpressed.

However, once he saw how the resilience tools could make him a better leader and a better instructor to junior Soldiers, he was on board.

The Army culture is shifting, Tobin asserted, because the CSF2 training requirement must be reported quarterly.

"Soldiers are latching onto this," Tobin said. "They see the improvement in their home life and in the job performance."

For more information on what CSF2 offers at Fort Knox, contact the training center at (502) 624-7156. You can also visit the web site at http://csf2.army.mil.