News: Long Knife Soldiers build morale, gain knowledge during SFI class
Story by: Pfc. Angel Washington
CONTINGENCY OPERATING SITE MAREZ, Iraq – Soldiers assigned to the 4th Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, U.S. Division-North, participated in a Spiritual Fitness Initiative class Nov. 5.
The newly developed program allows 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, a resident of San Antonio.
Following the Nov. 5th shooting at Fort Hood, Parker and her colleagues were invited to the post to provide resiliency training to soldiers. After seeing the impact on soldiers, III Corps Chaplain Col. Michael Lembke invited Parker and her colleagues to Iraq to see if they would be interested in providing long-term training on everyday life events.
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 Company A, 27th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th AAB.
“I think this class should be mandatory,” said Garcia, a native of 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 said they 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, said he 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 Company A, 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 native of Moreno Valley, Calif.
“The purpose of the class was to kick off the initiative—train chaplains and begin training soldiers while we’re here,” said Maj. Mike Patterson, chaplain, 4th AAB, 1st Cav. Div.
“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 native of Vero Beach, Fla.
Now that the brigade’s chaplains have gone through the class, “Long Knife” soldiers of the 4th AAB will have the chance to take part in the new, unit chaplain led initiative designed to improve the soldiers’ spiritual wellness.
“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.”