By 1st Lt. Joe Trovato
Wisconsin National Guard
FORT MCCOY, Wis. - The Wisconsin Army National Guard concluded its first master resilience trainer [MRT] course without the aid of external primary instructors March 14 at the Wisconsin Military Academy on Fort McCoy, Wis.
Going solo in teaching the course for the first time, Wisconsin’s Guard became the only Reserve Component organization in the nation to certify MRTs on its own. It is only the second to do so Army-wide.
Now dubbed the National Guard Master Resilience Training Center, Wisconsin’s 426th Regiment Regional Training Institute [RTI] began running MRT courses in summer 2011 at the Wisconsin Military Academy, but the course’s primary instructor always came from the University of Pennsylvania, where the Army’s resilience program was first developed. Though Wisconsin MRTs ran much of the course, the university’s primary instructor was always there to oversee the program.
Now Wisconsin is on its own, becoming only the second self-sufficient course in the nation. The only other solo MRT course is at Fort Jackson, S.C., where the active duty course is headquartered.
The opportunity came about as a result of Maj. Sylvia Lopez’s completion of the MRT level four primary instructor course in January. She is the only member of the National Guard certified to teach the course.
“It’s just a sense of accomplishment,” said Lopez, who served as the inaugural course’s primary instructor. “I guess that is the best way to describe it, because we’ve worked really hard to get to this place. Everybody has sacrificed so much to get to this point, and we believe in the mission.”
“We believe in what we do,” she said. “We see how MRT transforms lives, and how it affects so many people.”
Lopez immediately credited the hard work of her team at the 426th. There were 20 Guardsmen on orders to run the course, which began March 4. It was the 20th iteration of the MRT course at Fort McCoy, which has now trained nearly 1,100 students from the National Guard, Reserve, active duty and family program civilians.
The 426th is in the process of training additional primary instructors from Wisconsin.
“I couldn’t be more proud of her,” Lt. Col. Andrew Ratzlaff, the commander of the second battalion, 426th RTI, said of Lopez. “The bigger point is she got to where she is at through the hard work and efforts of that entire staff up there. So there is a reason why she is there, and that’s because of the teamwork of everyone.”
Arriving at this point was an accomplishment several years in the making for the 426th. In 2009, Lopez and a handful of other officers were asked to attend the Army’s new training program aimed at building the resilience of its force through positive thinking.
“The National Guard Bureau sees the fact that soldiers are coming back with issues they need to deal with, and while this is not a suicide prevention program, it does help soldiers avoid negative situations and how to think their way out of it rather than act their way out of it,” said Ratzlaff.
There were no National Guard slots for the course, however. Guardsmen who wanted to take the course had to get an active duty slot at either Fort Jackson or at the University of Pennsylvania.
When Lopez and others like Capt. Kristin Boustany returned from the first course, they became believers, and the idea to start the first National Guard resilience course was born.
Wisconsin began to build a staff and add MRTs.
“They’re a great group,” said Lopez. “They are really living the skills.
“They epitomize the skills, and that’s why we’re here.”
Wisconsin has taken a leadership role in the Army’s overall resilience training initiative. Having the first solo National Guard MRT course only cemented its reputation. Instructors from Wisconsin not only teach at the Wisconsin Military Academy, but they have also traveled to other states and most major Army installations to teach their techniques.