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Wednesday, Feb. 01, 2012

Brown Hall opens on Main Post

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The Comprehensive Soldier Fitness-Performance and Resilience Enhancement Program center has formally opened its doors Friday.

Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning and CSF leaders took part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday at Brown Hall, the old tax center on Main Post. It’s set up as a hub for Soldiers to sharpen their minds and develop the mental skills and techniques needed for maximum personal performance.

“This is a fantastic facility. And this works,” said Maj. Gen. Robert Brown, the MCoE commanding general. “Resilience and performance enhancement is a brilliant idea. This is rooted in sports psychology, so it’s been around a while. It’s all about how you perform your best when it matters the most.”

CSF-PREP leverages some best practices from resilience exercises and the science behind an Olympic training model to boost readiness and potential while optimizing individual strength and abilities, officials said. It’s already in use by several Fort Benning units.

Brig. Gen. James Pasquarette, director of the Army’s CSF program, attended Friday’s opening. The new center is one of roughly half a dozen around the service.

He said the expansion of CSF programs, services and support will yield long-term benefits for the Army and Soldiers.

“It’s physical training for the mind. Now, we’re working on the psychological fitness and resilience of Soldiers and their Families, where we’ve never done that before,” he said. “We are getting better. In the future, I think we’ll be just as psychologically fit as we are physically fit. This is something we’ll see forevermore.”

Resilience training, mandatory for Soldiers, has been conducted under CSF for the past three years, Pasquarette said. It’s optional for Families and Army civilians. The PREP portion, however, is geared specifically toward Soldiers as it attempts to strengthen their capabilities and resolve under stress.

The director praised the commitment made by Brown, whom he called the Army’s “biggest supporter” of CSF’s enhanced-performance piece.

“It’s a new capability we haven’t had,” he said. “(The focus) is on Soldiers in operational units who — when put in a stressful situation — excel. They don’t just get through it, but they actually excel at those difficult tasks. That is often the edge on the battlefield at the very low level, the squad level.”

Team building, focus, concentration, self-regulation and controlling physiology are among CSF-PREP’s core pillars. But Pasquarette said goal setting is the most important.

“If you have a disciplined manner of setting goals and coming up with a plan to attain it, even if you have a setback in life … you can quickly bounce back and focus on what’s important,” he said.

The Army’s psychological health has improved overall, the general said. He pointed to a recent study indicating units that have gone through some form of resilience training perform better than others who did not.

Pasquarette said a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq resulted in certain adverse outcomes — including record suicide rates, cases of post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression — that “frankly we weren’t ready for” as an Army. Since CSF is a relatively new initiative, there isn’t enough data yet to determine whether it can help lower suicides, but program administrators are optimistic, he said.

“The program is part of a larger strategy that in the long run will help with this problem,” he said. “By doing prevention up front … we believe it will lead to less suicides, less PTSD, less alcohol abuse, less domestic problems — things that we are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on in treatment after the fact, after there’s an issue. We think we can head off a fairly significant portion of that by conducting this training program up front.”

He said Soldiers who have been through the program perform better in combat — CSF-PREP specialists have found they are less hesitant to make a decision and react quicker to obstacles than troops who have not taken the training.

“There’s no question this helps Soldiers, and it’s also fantastic for Families,” Brown told graduates Friday of the PREP Leader Course, the second class to complete the weeklong session. “Using these techniques and principles works.”

In addition to junior leader development courses, the CSF-PREP center also provides unit and organizational workshops, walk-in services, long-term solutions and Army Basic Instructor Course support.

Lt. Col. Greg Burbelo managed the program for the entire Army at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y. He’s now the CSF-PREP chief at Fort Benning after launching it here.

“We look forward to continue providing world-class education and training in support of your important missions, and to our most important resource, our young Soldiers and leaders,” he said. “Our team comes here highly educated with advance degrees and multiple certifications, and they have hit the ground running.”

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