By Joseph Andrew Lee
In the mission to fight the stress of combat, there’s a buzzword floating around the Department of Defense: Resiliency.
The answer to building resilient soldiers is potentially located in a city block-sized complex that serves as a one-stop-shop for every available resource to balance body, mind, and spirit. Created by the U.S. Army, the campus is a place to build a better soldier.
And where better to test this prototype campus than at Fort Hood, Texas, the largest military base in the United States.
In 2009, Army Colonel William Rabena, now commandant of the Resiliency Campus on Fort Hood, led acampaign to get to the bottom of the social problems occurring on post, including the increase in suicides. He found that one in four soldiers said they would be viewed as “weak” if they admitted to suffering from emotional issues.
“But it wasn’t only that,” said Army Command Sergeant Major Michael Aycock, Deputy Commandant of the Resiliency Campus. “There was a perceived stigma associated with reaching out for and seeking mental help. Perception can create a false reality, so we needed to change that perception in order to change the reality of the situation.”
A unified effort to bring the resources together under one roof resulted in Fort Hood’s Resiliency Campus.
“There have always been resources out there,” he added. “But they were spread around the post in different locations, provided in a hundred different methods, and communicated to troops in their own ways at different times.”
The campus is open to soldiers, retirees, DoD civilians, and families, and even offers limited childcare for free. Everything is confidential.
“We don’t turn people away,” said Aycock. “If you come into the Resiliency Campus looking for help, we’ll help.”
In addition to the complex on base, there was a need to provide somewhere to go that had no association with the military—somewhere anonymous.
Many community organizations and individuals answered the call by nearby Harker Heights Mayor Ed Mullins to provide a Community Outreach Center.
“There are thousands of military families that are in great need of these resources,” said Mullins.
He reached out to City Councilman John Reider, who owns a real estate company, and asked if there was office space in the area that could be donated. Once the location was secured, USO Fort Hood and Patriot Furniture teamed up to outfit the location.
“The entire community has been very supportive with their donations, allowing us to make the Community Outreach Center a reality in just a few months,” said Robin Crouse, director of USO Fort Hood.
As an off-base extension of the Resiliency Campus, the center provides many of the same classes and resources offered on post. For professional mental health services, however, a clinic called Scott & White Military Homefront Services in Killeen, Texas, is available to troops and their families free of charge.
On Fort Hood, the Resiliency Campus is now fully operational and indications are it may be exactly what the doctor ordered. Comprised of several different centers, the campus is truly designed to be the ultimate resource for self-improvement.
A variety of programs are available in the Wellness Center to help strengthen the body, including CrossFit PowerPerformance classes, stress control, and social awareness groups.
The Spiritual Fitness Center is a non-religious center that provides 24/7 access to counseling, an on-call military chaplain, a crisis line, a meditation area, and a family reflection area.
In the Human Performance Lab, an evaluation can determine an individual’s current level of physical fitness and create a custom program designed to help them accomplish their fitness goals.
To cope with any lingering need for the adrenaline rush of battle in a safe way, soldiers are required to go through the Warrior Adventure Quest. The program offers downhill mountain biking, paintball, rock climbing, and kayaking.
The ultimate goal of the Resiliency Campus, according to Aycock, is to strengthen soldiers, and the military community at large, so people are fit to handle the stressors that come along with life.
“In the Army, we’ve spent entirely too much time and resources trying to repair the damage of an already broken soldier,” he said. “We want to prepare the people in our community to b resilient—to make them strong before they break—so they don’t break.“
–Joseph Andrew Lee is a USO multimedia journalist.
Stories in this Series
Dec 18, 2010
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