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Program mentally arms soldiers for combat

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Programming soldiers for warThe Army, burdened by almost a decade of war and beset by increases in suicides, substance abuse and combat stress, embarked on the controversial $125 million project to instill psychological strength in soldiers the same way it teaches physical fitness.

Called the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program, it is designed to make soldiers more psychologically “resilient” amid the pressures of combat, repeated deployments and family and financial crises. The effort runs counter to many military traditions.

“It’s a big culture change,” said Col. Jeffrey Short, a physician and the medical director of the program.

“For decades,” he said, the Army attitude was “everybody’s just going to be tough. . . . You’re going to sweat this out, and when you come out the other end, you’re going to be better for it.
Now, to concentrate on how people are thinking, and how they’re feeling . . . that is an Army culture change,” he said.

Brig. Gen. Rhonda Cornum, who oversees the program, said: “The Army recognized that its historical way of dealing with psychological fitness was to wait until somebody showed evidence of not having psychological fitness and then trying to fix it.”

This is an effort to help soldiers before that happens.

The program includes a mandatory confidential online assessment tool so soldiers can gauge their emotional status around issues like relationships, job satisfaction and life in general. They can take further optional online training to get help in areas where they would like to improve.

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