The Wisconsin Army National Guard is piloting a program along with 19 other states to bolster the resiliency of Army National Guard teens and build positive methods of coping with stress.
Part of the Army's Comprehensive Soldier Family Fitness Program that trains Soldiers and their spouses on skills to cope with stresses, the pilot program has a curriculum tailored to the teen population and teaches teens life skills — skills that adults have because of their many life experiences — such as being self aware, critical thinking, and building stronger relationships.
"The goal of the pilot program is to translate [those] skills to provide families with a common language around which to build resilience and performance skills," said Robin Cordovez, acting program manager for the Child and Youth Programs Branch at the National Guard Bureau.
The teen program, meant for those between 11 and 18 years old, has already been well underway within the active Army community, where the curriculum was vetted, Cordovez said.
But by bringing the Army Guard and its child and youth program coordinators into the program, it allows the Army and Army Guard to work jointly to enhance the program curriculum, she said.
"Nineteen states have initially signed on for the pilot program," she said. "In these states there are child and youth program coordinators who are responsible for providing this teen curriculum to the population."
In Wisconsin, 15 teens are involved in the full curriculum training, and in each of the 19 states, teen participants have the option of attending one two-hour workshop focusing on three specific skills, or learning all of the skills. As many as 50 Wisconsin military teens will receive a 2-hour block of resilience instruction during teen and youth summits during the course of the year.
"The curriculum consists of 14 skills that teens will learn over the course the year, such as how to hunt the good stuff, goal setting and activating events, thoughts and consequences, or ATC," Cordovez said.
She added that teens were hand selected for the pilot and are typically also serving on their state Guard Teen Panels, which are the voice to Guard leadership on issues teen children of Guard families face. The teens will be incorporating the teen-focused resiliency pilot program curriculum into their regularly scheduled meetings, Cordovez said.
This was due to the fact that these teens already meet regularly, which allows them to complete the program's curriculum within the fiscal year, she said.
"That is important … because it allows a more accurate overview of the success of the program," she said.
A successful program could lead to a more resilient Guard family, Cordovez said.
"By tailoring it to the youth population, it enables us to have a stronger and more resilient [Guard] family," she said. "It's also important because it allows our youth who face challenges, especially those in the National Guard geographically dispersed in the states, to better cope with those stresses and help them answer the questions of how are they going to cope with that stress or how are they going to get through that situation."
Wisconsin National Guard Child and Youth Program coordinator Tina Jeffords agreed.
"I believe this program is going to be instrumental in accomplishing the Army's goal of having a resilient and ready force," Jeffords said. "I have always believed the more we can provide the same training with the same language to the entire family, the better off our Soldiers and families will be when it comes to dealing with adversity. They can face deployment-related stressors with tools that the entire family knows how to use. This is just another tool in their toolbox when it comes to readiness."
Each state will implement the program in its own unique way. In Wisconsin, Jeffords said, the goal is for teens to go through resilience training that is similar to what their parent receives in the Guard in hopes that doing so will encourage conversation at home.
The pilot is scheduled to conclude at the end of fiscal year 2015. Teens within the program have provided feedback and many have already found the program to be beneficial.
"Being taught and going through training to understand what Resilience is, is important because as a military child being able to adapt and adjust to various situations helps to build character and allows you to deal with those situations easier based off of the methods learned in the course," said Ahriyan Adams, one of Wisconsin's youths participating in the program. "Continuing in the program, I am eager to learn about new methods of how to cope and hear about other military kids' experiences."
Cordovez said that as she and her colleagues continue to receive that kind of positive feedback, she believes that the teen resiliency program would become a permanent part of the Army Guard youth program and continue to grow.
"We really see this as a program that will continue to grow within the Army National Guard," she said, adding that having the matching skills to deal with challenges in life really allows the individual to endure.