News: The whole soldier
Story by Sgt. Memory Strickland
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – The U.S. Army evolves daily; therefore the backbone of the Army, noncommissioned officers, must change as well. Soldier 360, a new program, was designed to help noncommissioned officers adapt through the motto: learn, do, practice and teach.
Approximately 80 noncommissioned officers participated in Soldier 360’s pilot program for Joint Base Lewis-McChord at Gwinwood Conference Center in Lacey, Wash., Sept. 17-28.
Soldier 360 provides noncommissioned officers with comprehensive training that addresses the entire soldier: stress and anger management, biofeedback, relaxation, yoga, meditation, physical fitness and conditioning, injury prevention, pain management, relationships, communication, conflict resolution, nutrition, sleep, combat stress, post-traumatic stress, and alcohol management.
Throughout the course, instructors encouraged participants to record their feelings and experiences in journals.
Journaling can help reduce stress and release feelings in a healthy manner, said Dr. Glen Wurglitz, a Chicago native, now a psychologist with Soldier 360.
On the first day, many participants said they were attending the class to learn how to better take care of their soldiers, but one participant held a different view.
“You have to know who you are in order to help your soldier,” said Sgt. Malcolm Bicandi, a Hermiston, Ore., native, now assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, I Corps.
Wurglitz told participants they would only be able to grow as individuals and leaders if they approached Soldier 360, and their health, with open minds.
During the course, Wurglitz and other doctors taught NCOs how stress can affect people physically like slowing someone’s ability to heal.
After each lecture, noncommissioned officers discussed what they learned from the lesson. By doing this, they opened themselves up to hear different points of view. Participants learned how to listen and trust themselves as well as others.
One exercise designed to help build trust and improve listening skills instructors called the “fish bowl” exercise. While the rest of the class watched, four participants sat in the center of the room facing each other. Those in the center talked about personal issues. The participants had to trust themselves to open up and the other participants with their private information.
“The fish bowl exercise was deep. Everyone has struggles and opened up. It was refreshing,” said Staff Sgt. Marshay Harper, a native of Sacramento, Calif., now a supply noncommissioned officer with Company A, 47th Combat Support Hospital. “We found a way to trust each other and that is a beautiful thing.”
Instructors also introduced the noncommissioned officers to basic yoga techniques during an hour-long class every morning. The last two days of class, some married participants invited their spouses to couples’ yoga. This allowed the families to experience relaxation and stress management alongside their spouses.
“I learned better ways to care for myself, so I can focus on soldiers and training,” said Sgt. 1st Class Bobby Timmons, a Gilmer, Texas, native, now a platoon sergeant for 46th Aviation Support Battalion.
“The course was very beneficial. The intent was surpassed. Everyone got something out of it,” said Harper.