[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                     

February 24, 2012

News

Wisconsin National Guard celebrates resilience training milestone

Story & photos by 1st Sgt. Vaughn R. Larson, Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs

The 1,000th National Guard master resilience trainer (MRT) has graduated from the National Guard MRT Training Center-Wisconsin, located in the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s Wisconsin Military Academy (WMA) at Fort McCoy.

“This is a big deal for the Army National Guard,” said Lt. Col. Maureen Wiegl, division chief of Soldier and Family Support at the National Guard Bureau (NGB), via videoconference during a Feb. 13 ceremony at the MRT Training Center, formerly referred to as Guard Resilience University. “We truly believe that Comprehensive Soldier Fitness and the well-being of Soldiers and Families depends greatly on the success of this program.”
PHOTO: Master Resilience Trainer students listen to  Lt. Col. Maureen Wiegl, the National Guard Bureau’s division chief of Soldier and Family support. Photo by 1st Sgt. Vaughn R. Larson
Master Resilience Trainer students listen as Lt. Col. Maureen Wiegl, the National Guard Bureau’s division chief of Soldier and Family support, addresses them via videoconferencing during a ceremony celebrating the 1,000th National Guard master resilience trainer to be certified.

Resilience itself has been described as the ability to bounce back from adversity, once thought an uncommon trait but now known to be learnable and teachable. The MRT program is a train-the-trainer component of Comprehensive Soldier Fitness, a program launched in 2009 designed to measure and improve resilience and psychological health across five dimensions — emotional, Family, social, physical and spiritual.

A recent Army report indicates that Comprehensive Soldier Fitness is producing positive results.

“Resilience is tied to readiness,” said Lt. Col. Denise Walker, resilience branch chief of the NGB’s division of Soldier and Family Support, via videoconference. “As you prepare your units for training, as you prepare them for deployment or stateside mission, we need to make sure their head is in the right place and that they are strong enough to endure any challenges they are faced with.”

Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, commander of the Wisconsin Army National Guard and an early collaborator in building an MRT course in Wisconsin, asked students in the MRT course to consider what they were learning in the context of the National Guard motto, “Always Ready, Always There.”

PHOTO: Maj. Sylvia Lopez, a trainer at the National Guard Master Resilience Trainer Training Center-Wisconsin addresses students. photo by 1st Sgt. Vaughn R. Larson
Maj. Sylvia Lopez, a trainer at the National Guard Master Resilience Trainer Training Center-Wisconsin in the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s Wisconsin Military Academy at Fort McCoy, addresses students during a ceremony celebrating the 1,000th National Guard master resilience trainer to be certified.

“A key element of that mission readiness is individual Soldier readiness,” Anderson said. “You cannot achieve that if the Soldier is not battle-focused on his or her training, but he or she cannot accomplish that if they are dealing with a multitude of other issues in their life.

“Ultimately, the weakest link in the chain is going to affect the entire strength of the chain,” Anderson continued. “When it comes to organizational readiness, if one Soldier is focused on an issue or problem that he or she is having at home, and not able to focus on the training at hand, it ultimately affects that unit and that unit’s readiness.”

The Ohio and Michigan National Guard organizations provided master resilience trainers to help the MRT Training Center conduct its courses. Col. Chip Tansill, chief of staff for the Ohio Army National Guard, said that his organization takes this program seriously.

“Our assistant adjutant general has made taking care of Soldiers — Soldier readiness — the number one priority in our state,” Tansill said by videoconference. “The skill sets that you are learning and our Soldiers are learning are just immeasurable at this point because every single Soldier counts, every Family member counts.”

Col. James Bartolacci, chief of staff for the Michigan Army National Guard, said his organization hoped to establish its own MRT training center.

“In order to do this, you have to have a vision,” Bartolacci said by videoconference. “NGB and Wisconsin, you guys had the vision in Comprehensive Soldier Fitness, worked through the MRT process and realized that we had to have a vision. Without a vision we would fail, and we aren’t about failing our Soldiers.”

Col. Kenneth Koon, Wisconsin Army National Guard chief of staff, and Lt. Col. Andrew Ratzlaff of the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s 426th Regional Training Institute, which operates the Wisconsin Military Academy, developed the plan for what became the MRT Training Center in August 2010. They presented that plan to the NGB the following month, and in November received the green light to proceed. The Wisconsin Army National Guard assembled a mobile training team to conduct resilience training assistant (RTA) training for more than 200 students in San Diego in April 2011, and conducted two RTA courses at the WMA in June 2011. A pilot MRT course was held at the WMA in July 2011 in preparation for the very first MRT class conducted by the National Guard in August 2011.

Bartolacci also urged the MRT students to not just teach the skills they have learned, but live them.
“You have to be that example,” Bartolacci said.

2nd Lt. Leslie Bamba, a member of Troop G, 2nd Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment in the Tennessee Army National Guard, was the youngest Soldier enrolled in the class containing the 1,000th MRT.

“I’ve learned a lot,” Bamba said. “I think there’s a lot of really good stuff that (Soldiers in Tennessee) can apply, not only with their Soldier requirements and responsibility but a lot of stuff they can use in their daily lives to make them better, stronger people.

Sgt. 1st Class Rodgie Parker, a member of the 135th Expeditionary Sustainment Command in the Alabama Army National Guard, was the Soldier with the most time in service enrolled in this course.

He said he plans to assist his unit commander, who completed the MRT course at Fort Jackson, S.C.

“I learned a little bit about me,” Parker said. “At my point in my career there are still plateaus and still places I want to go from here.”

Maj. Sylvia Lopez, a trainer at the MRT Training Center and emcee for the ceremony, noted that the National Guard began its MRT program in late 2009 when its first trainer was certified.

Over the course of the next 21 months the National Guard added close to 590 MRTs across the nation through courses at the University of Pennsylvania, Fort Jackson and active-Army mobile training teams. During the past seven months, the MRT Training Center added 411 certified MRTs to that total. In that time, Lopez said she has seen initial student resistance to the resilience concept decrease.

“What that tells me is that the MRTs are getting out there doing their job and helping deliver resilience training or producing resilience training assistants,” Lopez said. “People are a lot more open to it, and very eager. There are still some who are skeptical, and that’s okay. We encourage that, because we really want to show them that the skills do work. Usually by day three or four we see a turnaround. Our most avid skeptics turn out to be our best promoters of the program.”

When Lopez began her MRT training with 14 other Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers at the University of Pennsylvania in January 2010, she didn’t imagine that two years later she would be celebrating the 1,000th National Guard MRT.

“I think that really speaks to the collaboration of all these folks,” she said of the various National Guard representatives taking part in the ceremony. “Without this collaborative effort, we would not be here.”

[ Top of Page ]

[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]