BELLEVUE, Neb. – Commander, U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) Adm. Cecil D. Haney met with the Command Resilience Council (CRC) Jan. 7 to discuss the importance of a healthy workforce, resilience initiatives for the command, and making resilience a part of the culture of USSTRATCOM.
USSTRATCOM's resilience concept focuses on building resilience into everyday activities, with clear focus on not being a checklist-style program.
Haney emphasized his commitment to USSTRATCOM's resilience concept and thanked the council for their work to date.
"I salute the efforts that have been ongoing, knowing this is a journeyâ€¦that needs to continue," he said. "The culture of resilience is easy to say as a buzzword, but the business of execution and following the shotâ€¦is important and you have my full support behind these endeavors."
Dr. Bill Astley, USSTRATCOM's command resilience coordinator, explained the resilience concept's genesis can be traced back to events after the Nov. 5, 2009 Fort Hood incident. In the 12-month timeframe following the attack, 18 Fort Hood service members committed suicide, which, according to Astley, "made an impact" on now-retired Maj. Gen. William Grimsley, the deputy commanding general of III Corps, Fort Hood, Texas at the time.
"General Grimsley built a resilience-type initiative there in response to that (incident), to help people who were having suicidal thoughts and other personal challenges," Astley said, noting Grimsley had used the Army Comprehensive Soldier Fitness model as a blueprint.
When Grimsley reported to USSTRATCOM as chief of staff, he saw USSTRATCOM had very different demographics, but still needed something similar to what was being done at Fort Hood, Astley continued.
USSTRATCOM selected Astley as the command resilience coordinator in September 2012, and USSTRATCOM's resilience effort officially launched in January 2013.
"When we think about building resilience, we believe suicide ideation, depressive thoughts, violence at home and the workplace, DUI's, aberrant behavior and a host of other bad things find their way into your life if you're not resilient. But if you have positive thinking, positive emotions, positive behavior â€“ there's no room for those negative things to creep in," he said. "You're building a buffer, a shock absorber. When bad things happen, you'll be able to bounce back from those situations and respond stronger."
"The resilience (concept) provides the opportunity to be proactive and not reactive," added USSTRATCOM's command senior enlisted leader Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Patrick Z. Alston.
Astley acknowledged the individual service resilience programs, saying USSTRATCOM had the opportunity to borrow from all those initiatives and noting the unique focus on an everyday approach to building personal resilience with the intent to increase performance and productivity at the command.
Astley was quick to credit the directorate resilience officers (DROs), representatives from across USSTRATCOM who volunteer their time, with helping the resilience concept succeed. DROs are encouraged to form directorate resilience councils to implement the resilience concepts that fit their personnel.
"They're the ones who are promoting resilience within their directorates. I'm just one guy. They're out there working...they're the point people who make resilience happen, just by doing simple things. They avail themselves to their people who know they can come to the DRO when they're feeling over their head."
A key component to the resilience concept is capitalizing on available community assets. Multiple avenues exist outside USSTRATCOM's doors to assist with an array of hardships, and Astley has spent a significant amount of time networking with those community services.
"I discovered many of the community services around Offutt had never been in the USSTRATCOM building, and if they had, they'd only gone to certain areas on very rare occasions. You have these wonderful community services that people don't know about and don't access, so when they have these stressful situations, they don't have anything to latch onto because they're not familiar with it," Astley said.
To remedy this, the CRC welcomes a community agency representative to every meeting so the representative can network with the J-directors and DROs and put a name with a face for USSTRATCOM personnel to contact in the event of trouble.
USSTRATCOM's resilience concept has eight "pillars" of focus â€“ physical fitness, mental/emotional, social/family, spiritual, financial, knowledge/skills, workplace, and purpose driven/gratitude. To address the physical fitness pillar of resilience, the command implemented the Hallway Hikers program, a 1.53-mile walking course throughout the building incorporating a series of hallways and stairwells with an optional outside loop around the USSTRATCOM building. Astley noted USSTRATCOM's demographic makeup was markedly different from other military bases, which demanded an adjusted approach to fitness.
"The average age is older, we're two-thirds civilian, and many military members are more senior. Whereas the active duty and many civilians do a daily workout, we're seeing a larger portion of people slipping away from that," he explained. "We wanted to provide an opportunity within the workplace for some level of physical activity, so we developed Hallway Hikers."
Hallway Hikers participants who log their time on the available clipboards and average two full hikes per week for the entire quarter will earn a silver certificate signed by Adm. Haney. Three hikes per week will garner a gold certificate.
"In the last quarter, USSTRATCOM people did 1,222 miles of hiking, which I think is pretty impressive," Astley said.
At Haney's first all-call as commanding officer, he noted the importance of resilience and his intention to continue pursuing the concept. This endorsement, coupled with support from Alston, deputy commander Lt. Gen. James Kowalski and chief of staff Maj. Gen. John Uberti, validates the legitimacy of the resilience concept, Astley emphasized.
"Resilience isn't a buzzword or something nice to have. There are some very important reasons to keep up on it. People are taking their lives, doing desperate things in response to short-terms stressors in their lives. We can offer an alternative," he said. "We have a very important mission here for the defense of the country, and if people aren't at their best, we won't do the mission the best we can. It's about productivity, the mission, and building strong people to do that mission."