DVIDS – News – Prevent suicide and promote positive coping skills – ‘We’re in it together!’

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“A very high level of participation and engagement” is the overall feedback we received from Soldiers, providers and facilitators during this month’s Spartan Foundational Day training.

It is National Suicide Prevention Month and the “Spartan Brigade,” 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, at Fort Stewart, showed commitment to the Army’s objective of zero suicides by hosting holistic health and fitness training on Sept. 9. The objective during this event was for leaders to engage with Soldiers and strengthen their ability to use the support of the embedded behavioral health team and others on the installation who are here to support their resiliency and wellness. The outcome goals for our Spartans were to be aware of and educate others about ways to prevent suicide and substance misuse and the abundant resources within reach at Fort Stewart.

Spartan leaders skillfully balanced between meeting mission requirements and allocating time and space for their Soldiers to learn ways to improve holistic fitness. They recognized that improving Soldiers’ coping skills to combat stressors is as important as certifying their gunnery proficiency, resulting in being physically fit, expertly trained and mentally tough. As the top operations noncommissioned officer for the “Panther Battalion,” 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 2nd ABCT, 3rd ID, Sgt. Maj. Adolfo F. Dominguez said, “The Spartan Foundational Day integrating H2F and suicide prevention training was timely for the Panther Battalion’s upcoming intensive training cycle. The training will individually test the stress coping mechanisms of all the Panther Soldiers and possibly identify areas for growth. The hope is that the foundational day integrated training allows Panthers to be educated on the resources, life skills and tools available to them for the ongoing development of individual resilience, which then strengthens the whole team. I hope the Panther Battalion can push through their comfortable stress level and have the skills to dig deeper for greater strength. Panthers find themselves confident to handle any operational circumstance they may encounter in future training or deployments.”

Spartan battalions participating on this date were the 2nd Bn., 69th AR; the 9th Brigade Engineer Battalion; and the 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery Regiment. Several battalions were unable to participate due to competing missions and field training, in preparation for upcoming an upcoming rotation at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California. However, Spartan leaders found creative ways to ensure Soldiers received this valuable training. For instance, the 1st BN, 9th FAR, employed the train-the-trainer model to meet the needs of its Soldiers.

The execution of this event would have been less successful if it were not for the brigade medical operations officer and planner, 1st Lt. Patrick Patterson, also a former senior noncommissioned officer. He effortlessly planned and coordinated with other battalion medical officers to ensure we met our training objectives. Overall, we had a team of 40 experts who were split into smaller teams, creating full representation consisting of Sparta’s embedded experts and agencies from across Fort Stewart.

Internal to the brigade, we had the unit ministry team; counselors from the Military and Family Life Counseling Program, or MFLC; Soldiers certified in master resilience training, or MRT; and embedded Substance Use Disorder Clinical Care, or SUDCC, and behavioral health, or BH, providers. Other agencies supporting us were representatives from the Ready and Resilient, or R2, Performance Center and the Army Substance Abuse Program, or ASAP.

There were many who made this event a success. We had substantial help from a 9th BEB Soldier’s spouse, Mrs. Leah Espinosa, who is also one of the embedded BH clinic medical support assistants. She watched over the clinic for emergent issues while all BH providers supported the event. We couldn’t have done it without you, Leah! Also, joining us were BH providers from Winn Army Hospital Center as well as multi-disciplinary BH and social work interns from the Fort Stewart Social Work Internship Program along with their program director of training, Capt. Qwanquita Wright, who has served as the BH officer at Fort Hood and in Korea. Due to the generosity from the MFLC Regional Supervisor, Mrs. Tammy Tracy-Suarez, we received additional counselors to engage with the Soldiers.

During the training, each discipline had an opportunity to introduce their team members and provide an overview of their capabilities and how they can help Spartans reduce stress and optimize their performance. For instance, Spartan Soldiers and leaders were informed that R2 Performance trainers can provide training that is tailored to fit their needs, such as delivering team building training in the field. Ms. Emily Thompson, an R2 Performance trainer reflected, “It was a great opportunity for the Soldiers to learn a bit more about the available resources and how we can assist in overall readiness.”

During the training provided by the MFLC, Mrs. Anya Montefiore, the Spartans were surprised to learn that MFLC capabilities include support in understanding the real causes of stress, changing to healthier habits and understanding important elements of resolving conflicts. Additionally, Wright, shared with the group that “to understand a Soldier’s protective factors, we must start with one basic concept – knowing those in our squad, platoon, and company. We have to empower those around to see themselves as worthy but also understand that sometimes this is a challenge based on past and current experiences.” Wright and her team also encouraged Soldiers to “create a social circle where they can be open, vulnerable, and willing to ask and receive help.”

The final piece and the most important one is each command team used two vignettes that were crafted based on real-life cases with prompts to facilitate a discussion with BH providers. The BH providers stood alongside command team to either elaborate on the answers or ask further questions. For example, Spartans were asked to identify risk factors from the case and ways they could intervene. Also, they were prompted to explain the role of leaders in promoting positive coping skills in the formation. The discussion-based format provided opportunity to test our Soldiers’ knowledge about warning signs and risk factors that are associated with suicide attempts. During the process, Ms. Jennifer Rasmussen, a BH provider and a retired Marine, observed that “Soldiers were very engaged, and Capt. Cloninger was quite passionate and engaging.”

That said, Spartans Soldiers are in good hands! Reach out and connect because we are stronger together!

Editor’s note: commentary article by Capt. Nancy Hausterman, Behavioral Health Officer, 2nd ABCT, 3rd ID.

Date Taken: 09.19.2022
Date Posted: 09.19.2022 20:13
Story ID: 429608

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