News: Spiritual fitness class focuses on PTSD
Story by Pfc. Angel Turner
CONTINGENCY OPERATING SITE MAREZ, Iraq - Soldiers assigned to the 4th Advise and Assist Brigade came together to take part in a Spiritual Fitness Initiative class Nov. 5.
The newly developed program allowed chaplains and soldiers to interact amongst each other while gaining information about spirituality and learning about trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, coping skills and ways to keep their body operating at its best level.
“SFI is an innovation to the Army’s approach to combat operation stress,” said Rev. Dr. Chrys Parker, a chaplain with Spiritual Fitness Ministries. “It emphasizes the approach to stress through spirituality, mental wellness and physical wellness while providing soldiers the tools to pursue these things,” said Parker, of San Antonio, Texas.
During the 16 hour class, soldiers learned about the different types of PTSD behaviors and how sleep, nutrition, hydration, and physical fitness can affect a person’s mental state.
“The most important thing about SFI is that it is designed to create relationships and spread knowledge and understanding but do so in a ‘community,’” said Parker.
Soldiers who took part in the class role played various scenarios, which allowed them to put themselves in other people’s situations.
“SFI gives us knowledge to understand and know the difference between someone going through PTSD and depression,” said Sgt. Nancy Garcia, a fire control repairer assigned to 27th Brigade Support Battalion.
“I think this class should be mandatory,” said Garcia, from Eagle Pass, Texas. “It helps make positive meanings out of negative experiences, and it will help a lot of soldiers come out and seek help. The class is a good type of seed that needs to be spread throughout.”
Soldiers with different life experiences saw the class as an aid to certain problems. One soldier, who recently lost his mother came to the class not knowing what to expect, but left feeling better and looking forward to finally getting a good night’s rest.
“It was really great to be a part of the class,” said Spc. Gregory Perkins, a communications specialist assigned to 27th BSB. “I was able to sit down and open up, because I felt comfortable the first day. The atmosphere was great and for the first time in two weeks, I was actually able to sleep,” said the Moreno Valley, Calif., native.
“The purpose of the class was to kick off the initiative—train chaplains and begin training soldiers while we’re here,” said Chaplain Mike Patterson, the brigade’s chaplain.
“The class is important because we have a mission to accomplish. [Soldiers] take care of their marksmanship, physical health, military schooling, but often times they don’t take care of the individual soldier,” said the Vero Beach, Fla., native.
Now that the brigade’s chaplains have gone through the class, Long Knife soldiers will have the chance to take part in the continuing, chaplain-led, wellness initiative.
“Hopefully a large percentage of soldiers will be trained in SFI before our redeployment,” said Patterson. “The more soldiers we get trained and get to understand stress and the possibility of PTSD, [the more] it will help the Army as a whole—including retention and the overall soldier.”