FORT BELVOIR, Va. (Sept. 2, 2015) — The Army offers deployment resilience training to spouses that is tailored to address unique challenges they may face during pre- and post-deployment.
Eight master resilience trainers recently completed a train-the-trainer course offered by the Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness’s National Capital Region, or NCR, Training Center here. The course certifies these trainers to deliver Deployment Cycle Resilience Training to Soldiers and spouses, who are facing, or just returning from a deployment.
Two of the master resilience trainers work for Army Community Service, and wanted to go through the course so that they could offer the training to spouses.
When facing a deployment, “both [the Soldier and the spouse] have a difficult time, and it takes work to survive the challenges of deployment from both sides,” said Carol Janer, mobilization deployment and Family readiness program manager for Army Community Service on Fort Belvoir. “It’s important that both sides understand [these challenges], work together, and help each other get through the process.”
Deployment Cycle Resilience Training is offered in specific modules depending on where the Soldier is in their deployment process. Pre-Deployment Resilience Training is delivered one to six months before a deployment and helps the Family think about ways they will stay connected throughout a deployment.
“You’ve heard the saying, ‘When a Soldier deploys, the Family deploys.’ This training gives spouses the same skills and communication techniques so that they can stay resilient,” said Gloria Park, a master resilience trainer-performance expert for the NCR Training Center and an Army spouse. “Throughout this training, they will think of creative ways they can stay connected in meaningful ways, while setting boundaries and managing expectations.”
The Pre-Deployment Resilience Training encourages spouses to think about the benefits of being part of a military Family, and how they can communicate to their deployed Soldier in positive ways, such as: “compliment and encourage each other,” “talk about each other as a couple,” and “bridge communication between kids and the deployed parent.”
The training also reinforces the use of resilience and performance skills, which are also part of annual unit resilience training.
“Hunt the good stuff is one skill that can be extremely useful when going through a deployment, when it’s easy for both Soldiers and the spouse to focus on the negative. Taking the time to intentionally find the good things that are happening in your life and in others helps to balance out the negativity bias, which causes us to already notice the bad stuff more readily. Hunting the good stuff every day can lead to better health, better sleep, and better relationships,” Park said.
“Deliberate breathing and avoid thinking traps are two more skills that can remind us to take pause, take ourselves off autopilot and minimize misunderstandings,” she said.
Post-Deployment Resilience Training is delivered up to one month before, or one month after a deployment is completed, and includes discussion on adjustments that may be necessary upon reintegration. Although Families are happy to be reunited, the expectations and reality of roles and responsibilities can cause friction if expectations are not communicated or are unclear.
“For those who this is their first deployment, this is initially a lot. But once they start going through it, they settle down a bit, and by the end they feel like, ‘I grew; I learned some things; I can take care of myself,'” Janer said. “But there can be a lot of issues with reintegration. If you don’t have that communication and understanding of each other’s positions, then there can be a lot of strife that comes out of that.”
As part of Post-Deployment Resilience Training, spouses are asked to reflect on the strengths and skills they developed over the course of the deployment that they can pull from once the Soldier returns home. They are also given a list of tips on “things to do,” such as: “give your Soldier one-on-one time to reconnect with important friends and Family members,” and “give them time to find balance,” as well as “things to avoid,” such as: “telling your Soldier what he/she ‘should do'” and “pressuring your Soldier to talk”.
Spouses are also reminded of the resilience skills of active constructive responding and assertive communication, both of which have been shown to positively strengthen relationships. Assertive communication, for example, is a skill that helps you to communicate clearly and with respect, especially during conflict or challenge.
“It takes time to reconnect after a deployment and to catch up from where you left off last time you were together. These skills help Families set realistic expectations for what the reintegration process will look like, and provide them with skills to grow stronger after the deployment,” Park said.
Janer said to be successful through a deployment, Families should leverage resilience skills, be able to communicate and understand each other, and know your resources. Deployment Cycle Resilience Training gives Families strategies and techniques they can use to stay strong through a deployment, bounce back from challenges and grow from the experience.
“[Deployment Cycle Resilience Training] gives some shared language to the Family that is deploying,” said Laureen DuPree, employment readiness program manager for the Army Community Service on Fort Belvoir.
An Army spouse herself for 26 years, DuPree said, “Having common expectations, common avenues and a shared language of communication about what will happen during a deployment, how they should prepare ahead of time, how they should manage during, and then working through challenges during post-deployment, that common language is just so important.”
Deployment Cycle Resilience Training is required for all active, Army Reserve and National Guard Soldiers, who are deploying from their home station for 90 days or more. The training is also offered for spouses and takes about two to three hours.
Family members who, are interested in receiving Deployment Cycle Resilience Training, may contact their local CSF2 Training Center, Army Community Service or Walter Reed Army Institute of Research’s Research Transition Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.