Building Resilience Must Start at Basic Training, Mullen Says
(February 11, 2011)
|WASHINGTON, Feb. 7, 2011 – Leadership that builds resilience
in service members and their families starting with the
first day of basic training is essential to the U.S.
military's future, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
“That kind of investment up front will
prevent us from the expenditure of a huge number of
resources down the road,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen told the
audience of 600 people at the Defense Centers of Excellence
for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury's third
annual Warrior Resilience Conference in Arlington, Va.
The conference's “Total Force Fitness” theme supports a
joint strategy to build resilience for service members'
multidimensional and holistic fitness.
“This is as
important as who we are, where we are and what we need to do
with respect to the future as anything we have,” Mullen
The need for resilience emerged over time, the
chairman said, and it's only going to grow.
going to see a set of problems we've been stuffing away in
compartments that we didn't want to deal with that are
potentially going to rise dramatically in terms of severity
and sheer numbers,” he said. “We need to attack that issue,
not just wait for it to show up.”
Mullen noted that
Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. has talked
about leadership taking care of service members when they're
home, “which is something we haven't been focused on in a
The chairman said he recently visited
Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., noting that the 35,000
troops there represent the largest number of service members
stationed there in a long time.
“It struck me that
the only ones who knew anything about [that kind of
leadership] were the E-8s and E-9s. ... They took care of that
leadership at a time when we hadn't done that kind of
leadership for almost a decade,” Mullen said.
that group eventually will rotate out or retire in the next
few years, he added.
“We are in a race to provide
garrison leadership that is critical to our future to those
soldiers and airmen, there [and] across the board,” the
Service members who now are home
between deployments for twice as long as has been the case
over the last decade will present challenges that “deeply
penetrate” them and their families, Mullen said, calling it
a fundamental change that also alters the meaning of total
A mental health assessment team that
has gone into the combat theater about a half dozen times to
look at the troops' mental health recently briefed the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, the chairman said.
“The message that
came out is we're better than we've been, and in some ways
significantly better,” he said. “We have been able to build
resilience in ways a couple years ago we didn't understand
an awful lot about.”
And while much still is unknown,
he added, the services will be “in the ad hoc world with
respect to that until we systematically approach ‘This is
one way to do that.'”
Mullen told the group he
frequently addresses mental health and resilience and feels
passionate about it is because the military's future is at
stake. He noted that over the next few weeks, the fiscal
2012 defense budget will be a hot topic in the nation's
“We'll talk about our people, but oftentimes
the conversation gets dominated by the ‘stuff,'” he said.
“If we don't get it right for our people and put together
the kind of capabilities we have, ... it won't make any
difference what we get.”
Many good people are leaving
the military, the chairman said, and the nation can't afford
for that to continue. “The impact of that will be long-term,
significant, and it won't matter what kind of [budget] we
have coming,” he said.
Another concern the chairman
discussed is what he calls an “unwillingness to reach out to
the best there is.”
“Many of us think we are the best
there is, and I understand that and want professionals who
think that way,” he said. “But the best there is needs to
listen to somebody else who's the best there is. Too often,
we're far too limited in our willingness to look in other
places [or] to listen to breakthroughs that occurred
somewhere else [that] may apply to us.
“This has to
do with the speed, the openness and the urgency to get at
the challenges that exist,” he continued. “We cannot rest on
our status quo, no matter how good we think we are or
somebody else says we are. There's change that's constantly
occurring [that is] particularly invigorating and a
Change must be led by leaders
to make a difference, Mullen said, noting that with the
active involvement of leaders, the best practices can be
extended into the Veterans Affairs Department and into the
communities where veterans live.
that more work needs to be done to improve the transition
for service members' care when they separate from the
“We have a system that's incredibly
stovepiped -- that says while you're on active duty or while
you're wearing a uniform, the Department of Defense takes
care of you. After that, the VA takes care of you. And after
that, the VA turns you over to communities and says, ‘Have a
nice life,'” Mullen said. “So we take our most precious
resources, [the] people we care about so much while they're
here, and we turn them over to other stovepipes and hope it
Breaking down those stovepipes is
essential, the chairman said, so veterans “who made such a
difference, who sacrificed incredibly, are well taken care
of for the rest of their lives.”
through individuals to their families and their experiences
really is the message of today, the chairman said. “Building
that to the best possible level we can possibly build it is
absolutely required,” he added.
Mullen urged the
audience to tackle the issues, understand solutions that
might exist, and adopt the best practices until something
else comes along – keeping in mind those whose lives are
changed forever and the families of the fallen.
one surviving spouse told me, ‘On Monday, I was in the Army.
On Tuesday, I was gone,'” the chairman said. “We need to
make sure that does not happen anywhere. They sacrificed too
much, and they're too special.”
By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service
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