News: Soldiers learn to cope with stress during combat
Story by Staff Sgt. Miriam Espinoza
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD - Soldiers of the 571st Sapper Company, 14th Engineer Battalion, 555th Engineer Brigade, conducted a stress firing range as part of their comprehensive soldier and family fitness preparation Aug. 28 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
During the course, soldiers completed a series of three firing iterations preceded by cardiovascular exercises. Trainers designed the program to improve the soldiers ability to focus during stressful situations by blocking out distractions. The stress shoot tested the soldiers on their ability to react under extreme exhaustion and stress.
The shoot was the culmination of a two-week CSF2 training plan during which the unit learned strategies to cope with stressful situations and techniques to rejuvenate the brain so the Soldiers can continue to fight. They also practiced attention control and energy management techniques, which they put to the test during the physically challenging shooting range.
Pfc. Luis Maldonado, combat engineer, 571st Sapper Co., native of Quebradillas, Puerto Rico, said the training during the past two weeks with CSF2 helped him concentrate on the task at hand and control his breathing. “I had full concentration on my fundamentals (of marksmanship) and that helped me be successful during this exercise.”
This training can be incorporated into any training schedule that the unit designs. Soldiers of the 571st Sapper Co. are scheduled to deploy next year and the leadership found the training necessary and relevant to the type of missions they will be conducting.
“The purpose of this range is for soldiers to figure out what works for them in order to be effective downrange, it is important for Soldiers to train as they fight,” said Capt. Jim Perkins, company commander, 571st Sapper Co.
The training started out simple then it progressively got more demanding. During the first iteration soldiers were required to complete five repetitions of burpees before firing three rounds in the prone unsupported firing position and then three more in the kneeling position and another four rounds in the standing firing position at any target.
By the third iteration soldiers were required to complete 10 repetitions of burpees before firing 10 rounds, this time they were required to aim at a specific target called out by their range safety officer. Soldiers had to strike the assigned target six times in order to move to the next iteration. Soldiers, who failed to move to the next stage would step off the range to receive immediate feedback and get retrained on the fundamentals of marksmanship and practice techniques to control their breathing.
Valerie Alson, Master Resiliency performance trainer, CSF2, said that in order to be successful in any task the soldiers first need to identify the level of energy needed for the task. They also need to learn how to control their breathing, which helps them maintain their composure.
“They are encouraged to take their time concentrating on one task at a time and finding their happy place in order to be efficient in engaging their target,” Alson said.
After firing, the soldiers measure their heart rate using a bio feedback sensor, the sensor allows soldiers to look at moment to moment changes in their heart rate after being put through a stressful situation. Each soldier hooked this sensor to their ear and began breathing techniques they were taught to get their heart rate back to normal.
“The skills that they have learned will help the unit be effective, and they are abilities they will be needing,” Alson said. Any unit can request the training—whether a unit is scheduled to deploy or just wants to equip their soldiers with tools that will help them excel under stress.