News: Comprehensive Soldier fitness featured at symposium
Story by Sgt. David Scott
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq — A newly introduced holistic program of fitness for the Army was part of a women's professional development conference hosted from May 22 – 24 here.
The theme of the first Women's Noncommissioned Officers Symposium was "Celebrating the Past, Present and Future." About 90 Soldiers gathered in Memorial Hall at COB Adder under the direction and guidance of a committee of eight female noncommissioned officers with the 36th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary).
Comprehensive soldier fitness, a new program for the Army, was started last year under the direction of Gen. William Casey, Army chief of staff, and focuses on the five dimensions of strength, including emotional, social, spiritual, Family and physical strength.
Resiliency training is an integral part of this new Army-wide program. Soldiers who deliver this instruction to Army units are known as master resilience trainers. In order to achieve this certification, master resilience trainers must go through the Master Resilience Training Course taught at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. The course was adapted from the positive psychology program at the university, and the 1,000th master resilience trainer graduated in may.
The symposium's topics are contemporary and apply to all Soldiers, said Command Sgt. Maj. Elizabeth Shockley, command sergeant major with the 36th Sust. Bde. and an El Paso, Texas, native.
"Confidence, leadership, appearance and resilience," said Shockley, who started her military career in the Army National Guard more than 25 years ago as a field artillery repair specialist. "If you think about these four topics, they're important for any Soldier."
The intended audience for the event was the female noncommissioned officer. The committee sponsoring the event chose to showcase senior female enlisted leaders from all across Iraq. The two-day course was structured into four major segments, with each segment composed of a lecture portion, a group exercise portion and a discussion portion.
Master Sgt. Verena N. Harris, property book office noncommissioned officer-in-charge with the brigade and a Utica, N.Y., native; Sgt. 1st Class Pamela Bleuel, fragmentary order manager, also with the the 36th Sust. Bde. and a Louisville, Ky., native; and Master Sgt. Sandra Williams, noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the regional contracting center with the Joint Contracting Command-Iraq in Tallil, Iraq, and an Oxnard, Calif., native, moderated the sections on confidence, appearance and leadership respectively.
"We have sergeants major, master sergeants and sergeants first class who are going to be available to discuss these topics and after each topic there will be breakout sessions where important dialogue can be generated," Shockley said.
Shockley had attended a similar course at Contingency Operating Base Warhorse, Iraq and decided it made sense to bring this training to COB Adder, both as a professional development seminar and as a feedback mechanism, she said.
"One of the reasons that I agreed to attend and why I think this event here on COB Adder is important for noncommissioned officers, is we get to hear what's important to our Soldiers (with regard to) each of these topics," Shockley said. "So here we have an excellent opportunity and environment where they're with their peers. They're with Soldiers from other units and … the organizational structure is out of the way … We're hearing what they're thinking and what's important to them. As NCOs we should never stop listening to our Soldiers."
Master Sgt. Katrina Carter, master resilience trainer, Surgeon Section, 1st Infantry Division and a St. Louis native, taught the resilience section of the conference. Carter, a 23-year Army veteran, is a December 2009 graduate of the second class of the Master Resilience Training Course.
"I have been teaching this since the first week of February," she said. "Normally I do after action reports after I teach and right now, of the 2,800 Soldiers who have attended my course, 98 percent of those AARs are positive."
Carter emphasized that dealing with the highs and lows of deployment and trying to get through the unique challenges that deployments present is the reason for teaching resiliency.
"Right now, we are trying to teach them how to bounce back from adversity; how to deal with life's challenges," she said. "Right now, it's not so simple for them. You have a wife back home on the phone saying 'I'm getting ready to leave.' You can't simply send that Soldier home to deal with the situation. Instead you've got to continue on with your mission."
Master Sgt. Dorothea Goodson, administrative and operations noncommissioned officer-in-charge with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 13th ESC and a Chicago native attended the event after hearing from a friend at COB Adder, she said.
"It is awesome .... I am glad the Army has come to this," Goodson said.
Goodson said current symposiums never address issues that are of interest to her and that she was in favor of having more professional development programs for females.
"We should have more women's symposiums," she said. "You know the Army is predominantly male, so it would be nice, even outside of this theater of operations, even back at home station, to have something like this. We have Women's History Month and things like that, but never a symposium dedicated to training, coaching, mentoring female Soldiers in the Army."
Goodson encouraged having a similar symposium at Joint Base Balad, Iraq as well.
Sgt. Teresa Carter, a motor transport operator with the 108th Quartermaster Company, 110th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 36th Sustainment Brigade, 13th ESC and a Maple Hill, N.C., native, served on the committee that coordinated the symposium.
Resiliency is an important topic to her because of her own personal experiences during deployment. Her usual duty is petroleum supply, but she volunteered to drive trucks during this deployment — her fourth to Iraq, she said.
"Resilience is having the strength to continue on, after going through something extreme as a death in the Family and having the ability to continue to push forward," Carter said.
Sgt. Carter said the training received at the symposium was relevant and useful and thinks she might even want to arrange an event with similar topics in the future.
"I am going to take everything that I have learned today about the preparation of (the symposium) back to my unit and back to future Soldiers," she said.
Shockley wants symposiums like this to develop into a larger dialogue about issues and concerns that are of importance to female noncommissioned officers, like appearance and resiliency, she said.
Shockley said she feels confident the symposium here at COB Adder is only the end of the beginning of this conversation.
"I hope there's not an end-state," Shockley said. "Dialogue, I hope is generated here, and attitudes that are changed toward each of the topics, I hope continues. I hope also for some of the female leaders here who are attending … They can take away the things they liked about this event and do similar things in their own organizations."