PAKTIKA PROVINCE, Afghanistan, January 9, 2011 - Soldiers from 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, participated in a three-day class hosted by the brigade's resiliency team at Forward Operating Base Sharana January 7-9.
The training focused on building resiliency and reinforced the importance of staying "Toccoa Tough" throughout the deployment. Toccoa Tough is the slogan named after Toccoa, GA, where the 506th Infantry Regiment was formed in World War II.
The resiliency team, made up of the Task Force Currahee surgeon, chaplain and plans sergeant major, explained the importance of remaining mentally tough regardless of the Soldiers deployment experience.
"With resiliency what we are looking at is your ability to stay in the game," said MAJ Burton Newman, 4th Brigade Surgeon of Tallahassee, FL. "This is about your ability to absorb that stress, deal with it and be able to continue on."
The class gave Currahee soldiers from throughout Paktika Province the opportunity to take to a break from their daily routine and relax a bit at FOB Sharana while reviewing ways to maintain their physical, spiritual, emotional and mental health.
"Our goal is to get soldiers away from the fight and give them the tools to better deal with the (stress) of deployment and their return to Fort Campbell," said SGM Joseph Singerhouse, plans sergeant major and native of Prairie Farm, WI.
"We want soldiers to see that resiliency is not a pill you put down your throat; it's not a snap change in your lifestyle when that stressor comes," said Newman. "Resiliency is being well and being whole and looking at the four parts of what we know to be wellness so that when that trouble comes you've got some reserve and the wellness to bounce back."
The class consisted of 20 soldiers whose time assigned to TF Currahee ranged from less than four months to more than seven years. The training covered ways of overcoming stress and allowed the Currahees to share stories about their experiences and how they dealt with them.
"Allowing the soldiers to have some time to communicate about their experiences is important," said SPC Robert S. Burcham, a petroleum supply specialist with G Company, 4th Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 4th BCT, of Perry, IA. "We have a huge amount of experience in this brigade and it helps to hear from others who have overcome a situation that you are going through or might go through in the future."
Faced with multiple deployments, increased responsibility and balancing family and relationships, soldiers are being required to deal with enormous amounts of stress and the Toccoa Tough class is TF Currahee's attempt to give them one more tool to use.
"I want them to take away that being resilient, being able to bounce back from stress which is going to come our way whoever we are, one form or the other, is not a one-line answer that we have when we face adversity or when that bad time happens," said Newman. "It's wellness that we invest in every day making (oneself) a well-rounded, whole person, so when that time does come, we have some reserve and if we have to go through grief or whatever it is, we can come back stronger or we can at least come back to the person we are and not have a negative effect."
While not every Currahee soldier was able to attend the training, the resiliency team stressed the importance of sharing the information learned with every team, squad and platoon member.
"You coming here is not just for you," said 4th Brigade Chaplain (MAJ) Randal H. Robison of Grand Prairie, TX. "If you can take just one part from each of the sections of this program and share it with others then you will help double this effort."
The classroom training ended with what is called a stress shoot, which tests the soldiers' ability to apply what they learned by challenging them both mentally and physically, while emphasizing the importance of staying in control and focused.
Singerhouse said the goal of the stress shoot is to get the heart rate up, push soldiers physically and give specific tasks to accomplish.
"The stress shoot has the soldiers start out running and then we have them do some muscular endurance activities like push-ups, burpees, squats and then we challenge them by making them maneuver over an obstacle," said Singerhouse. "Once they were over the obstacle, the visualization and breathing becomes more important because we had them shoot at targets downrange in the kneeling and prone unsupported positions."
Overall, the three-day training was deemed a success.
"I learned a lot from this class," Burcham said. "My personal opinion about this resiliency class is that it is very helpful and has already put me on the path to accomplishing goals, dealing with the stresses of life and just coping with everything that has been going on in my life lately."
"I strongly recommend this class for all the soldiers
in the brigade," said Burcham. "I got a lot out of
this and if there are some soldiers out there who are having
problems or just needing to re-evaluate things in life, then
this would be a great class for them to attend."