The American Soldier’s creed includes the statement, “I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills.”To make sure that goal is met, the Army Ready and Resilience Program make Soldiers and leaders aware of the tools to increase readiness and resilience in an all-volunteer Army that has seen more than 10 years of armed conflict.
One of these tools in the box is risk reduction of high-risk behaviors such as: financial problems, child abuse, spouse abuse, crimes against property, crimes against persons, traffic violations, alcohol and drug offenses, absent without leave, suicide gestures and attempts, sexually transmitted diseases, injuries and safety accidents
Any of these behaviors, often associated with alcohol or drug abuse, can potentially erode a Soldier’s combat and mission readiness, affecting the Soldier’s squad, company and up to brigade level.
Risk reduction, headed by the Army Substance Abuse Program, is a three-part process to pinpoint what types of problems Soldiers are having before, during and after deployment. The program was first developed in 1994, at Fort Campbell, Ky. The Army Center for Substance Abuse expanded the program as a tool to prevent, reduce, and manage high risk Soldier behaviors.
The first step is collecting data from incidents that have already happened on the installation, said Marci Curry, Fort Bragg ASAP risk reduction program coordinator. She is one of two RRPCs who cover the entire installation.
Once she has collected data for 15 high-risk behaviors on Fort Bragg from battalions, Curry generates a shot group report that lets battalion commanders know where they stand in their Soldiers’ high risk behavior in relation to the Fort Bragg, U.S. Army Forces Command or Army average. The shot group looks like a dart board with 15 sections for each risk behavior. The closer to the middle of the target signifies less incidents.
“It gives the commander some kind of measure of what’s going on in their unit as far as incidents that have already happened,” said Curry.
The RRPC’s next pool of information comes from unit risk inventories; anonymous surveys given to Soldiers 30 days prior to deployment and 30 to 100 days upon redeployment. Because the survey is anonymous, Soldiers are more likely to report increased drinking or other problems, said Curry.
After she compiles the data from a battalion’s survey, she can send that information to the commander within two hours.
Curry said one of the good things about the survey is it gives commanders talking points. “I may say, of your 70 Soldiers that were surveyed, three of them indicated that they thought about suicide.’ It gives the commander an opportunity to say, ‘Okay, I don’t know who the three are but let’s all talk.’ And that’s what it’s supposed to do, encourage the commanders to bring everyone in and address it to everyone because yes, those three may say they have thoughts of suicide but if one of them actually attempts suicide, or completed suicide, it’s going to affect the whole group,” she said.
The inventory can also give a commander an idea of unit cohesion and trust in leadership.
Commanders do not have to tackle these discussions alone. The Fort Bragg Installation Prevention Team, chaired by the deputy garrison commander, has subject matter experts from different agencies around the installation such as Preventive Medicine, Provost Marshal’s Office, Army Community Service, Installation Safety Officer, Department of Social Work and other agencies.
“There’s usually underlying issues and that’s where the installation prevention team comes in. The subject matter experts have the ability to dig and see day-to-day what’s going on with high-risk behaviors,” she said.
“Everyone sits down at the table and talks about what they’re seeing in their lanes. If DSW is seeing a increase in the cases that they are having and are related to substance abuse, ASAP and DSW or Family Advocacy will then sit down and say, ‘Okay, what should we be doing together?’ We can also identify units that have the greater number of high-risk behaviors and focus our efforts on that unit this month,” said Curry.
With information from data collection, surveys and recommendations from subject matter experts, the RRPC gives the commander an action plan with advice on how to reach the Soldiers who are most in need of help.
“When I first started doing this job, almost two and a half years, my trainer told me, ‘your job is to lighten the commander’s rucksack. He has so many things in his rucksack, he doesn’t have time to get on the phone to call all those agencies to schedule something. It’s your job to say, this is what’s going on with your Soldiers and this is who can help,’” said Curry.
“A typical action plan might include a safety, stand-down day. The commander will plan a four- hour block of time for subject matter experts to come in and speak to the Soldiers,” she said.
Data collection, surveys and action plans the RRPC produces also helps with planning classes such as budget or check writing classes for units that show high risk behaviors in financial responsibilities, she added.
Another way of helping Soldiers is sending them to Warrior Adventure Quest, a program that provides high-adventure, outdoor recreation programs as part of team building and the Army’s holistic approach for Soldiers to reset.
“One of my questions is, ‘Are you taking advantage (of these programs)?’ There’s a lot of money being thrown into Warrior Adventure Quest and it’s a great program,” said Curry.
Soldiers can take advantage of the program up to 364 days after redeployment, she added.
A big part of resilience is Soldiers feeling that they can get help or knowing what resources there are, said Curry.
“Commanders knowing what’s going on in their units are now equipped to help their Soldiers be resilient, to help their Soldiers bounce back from whatever is going on. By arming commanders with tools, with the data and the resources, enables that commander to help the Soldiers,” she said.