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Burbelo: Model tactics of world-class athletes to build strong minds

The Army Center for Enhanced Performance wants Soldiers, leaders and basic trainees to build strong minds and bodies by tapping into the science behind an Olympic training model, the organization’s director said Thursday.

Lt. Col. Greg Burbelo said the U.S. Military Academy-based agency is “evolving the training paradigm” by leveraging some best practices from sports psychology and resilience to optimize performance across the Army. The techniques can be applied to a unit, mission or individual.

“We’re trying to maximize their cognitive potential in a dangerous world right now,” he said. “It’s understanding how your thoughts affect your performance. It’s a result of how we think. These are the (tactics, techniques and procedures) world-class athletes are using.

“It’s all about getting Soldiers, family members and Department of the Army civilians to really take a look at what they want to accomplish and where they’re going.”

Burbelo’s speech was part of the Maneuver Center of Excellence Senior Leaders Off-Site Conference, which took place Thursday and Friday at Columbus State University’s Cunningham Center. Comprehensive Soldier Fitness and resiliency were this year’s primary themes.

ACEP develops the full potential of Soldiers, Army civilians and families using a systematic process to enhance the mental skills essential to pursuing personal strength, professional excellence and the warrior ethos, according to its mission statement. The headquarters is at West Point, but there are 11 sites around the United States and 107 staff members, including 70 contracted performance enhancement specialists.

In 2010, ACEP reached about 40,000 personnel, Burbelo said. The concepts he discussed are tied to the Army’s CSF program, which focuses on the five dimensions of strength: emotional, social, spiritual, family and physical.

A Performance Enhancement Education Model, team-building workshops and resilience training are among the mission-essential tasks provided by ACEP. In addition, a pilot Learning Enhancement Program is offered at Redstone Arsenal, Ala.; Fort Bragg, N.C.; and Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

Army operations and training methods put Soldiers in stressful environments. Burbelo said ACEP teaches them how to handle and thrive under those conditions.

“In our delivery methods, Soldiers learn the fundamental concepts of ‘what,’ ‘how’ and ‘why’ we focus on developing these mental skills,” he told the audience.

He said goal setting, attention control and energy management are the foundations for building confidence and mental toughness.

Three companies under Fort Benning’s 2nd Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment, have gone through some form of ACEP and master resilience programs, said Lt. Col. Thomas Sheehan, the battalion commander. The principles were applied to marksmanship and other training tasks.

“We’ve gotten phenomenal results,” Sheehan said. “You have a formalized structure that puts everybody on the same sheet of music, from unit leaders down to the lowest-level Soldier. I’d highly recommend it for anyone who’s interested.”But one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to applying ACEP’s training model, Burbelo said. Challenges vary across the Army from post to post, but the key is targeting junior leaders who can help spread the system around the force.

“There are so many emerging concepts right now. We don’t have all the answers,” he said. “We’re still learning, and some of that will emerge in the coming years.”

He said ACEP is developing a five-day Resiliency Leader Course for junior personnel, but it’s in the proposal stage and no timetable has been set for when it could be available.

With about 145,000 Soldiers training here annually, Maj. Gen. Robert Brown, the MCoE and Fort Benning commanding general, said ACEP resources would be offered to any unit showing interest.

“In the Army, it’s not that you’re getting soft, you’re getting smart,” he said. “We’ll piece it together by bringing in folks from other installations. We’ll get it here temporarily as we seek to bring this program to Fort Benning permanently. We’re going to get this capability.”

CSF Resiliency Training Course

Fort Benning’s Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation has introduced the virtual Comprehensive Soldier Fitness campus at This site offers information and links to resources.

The program uses individual assessments, tailored virtual training, classroom training and embedded resilience experts to provide Soldiers and family members the critical skills needed to take care of themselves, their families and teammates in this era of persistent conflict. The CSF program is based on more than 30 years of scientific study.

As part of the program, MWR’s Army Community Service will offer the CSF Resiliency Training Course. This free, 21-hour course is available at various times, including evenings, for the convenience of Soldiers, family members and civilian employees. Classes are scheduled for March, April and May.

For more information, to inquire about the training schedule or reach a master resiliency expert, call 706-545-7517 or 706-545-4043. Register for the Resiliency Training Course at