|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
“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
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
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
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.”
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
“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
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
“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
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
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.”