FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - The 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division paused regular training for a week to focus on the physical and emotional wellbeing of Alaska’s Arctic Warriors.
From Nov. 18-22, every soldier in the brigade participated in the Army’s Ready and Resilient Campaign which focuses on health promotion, risk reduction and suicide prevention in the ranks.
“Our Ready and Resilient program is part of a larger campaign going on right now throughout the entire Army,” said Maj. Kevin Wainwright, brigade chaplain for the 1/25 SBCT. “What we’re doing is making sure that whenever a soldier is faced with adversity, in any form, they have the ability to overcome that adversity, and they are aware of all the available resources and support that they may need.”
Throughout the week soldiers attended classes and participated in resiliency and teambuilding events taught by health professionals from Fort Wainwright, as well as guest speakers, and Stryker Brigade leadership.
The battalions also had team building physical activities that took advantage of the challenging Alaskan winter by conducting various outdoor competitions and sports events.
“Resiliency is the mental, physical, and emotional strength to overcome adversity,” said Col. Brian Reed, commander of the 1/25 SBCT. “It’s at the core of who we are.”
In addition to the Army-wide topics of preventing sexual assault, risk reduction, suicide prevention, and physical fitness, Alaska soldiers focused on preventing domestic abuse and alcohol-related incidents.
“Soldiers are tough,” said Capt. Scott Dennis, chaplain for the 2nd Battalion, 8th Field Artillery Regiment. “But they are also human, and we have to recognize and care for the complete person, and that’s what this is about.”
Soldiers stationed in Fort Wainwright have the additional stress and difficulties introduced by Alaska’s extreme weather and long, dark winters. Preventing domestic violence and substance abuse that can result from winter-induced depression has long been a priority of Alaska’s command teams.
“Here in Alaska, there is a lot to do, but you have to be intentional about it,“ said Wainwright. “Otherwise soldiers can develop a sense of isolation because there isn’t a huge city a couple hours away like there is at most other posts in the Army. The other piece to that is short hours of daylight, and occasional extreme weather conditions can limit what we can do outside. So we’re addressing the issue of how does a soldier stay involved, not feel alone, not feel isolated, and build a sense of community, and draw strength from that. And Fairbanks is an incredibly supportive community.”
The importance of enjoying Alaska responsibly and doing so with a close group of supportive friends is a message Wainwright really emphasizes to the soldiers of the Stryker Brigade.
“A big part of this is teaching our younger soldiers how to identify risks, and thereby prevent situations that could lead to suicide, to sexual assault, or to alcohol abuse,” said Wainwright. “I’m not saying that that is the only demographic where we could have problems, but these are the leaders of tomorrow’s Army. We’re teaching them now how to be proactive and intervene before something even happens, how to prevent, and not just react. And a contributing factor is making a group of friends that will positively reinforce the Army values that we all live by.”