The Bayonet

Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012

Soldiers run for resilience: Spiritual aspect just as key as physical, leaders say

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“In the Army — the Infantry specifically — we’re very good at the physical aspect,” said Capt. Desmond Jack, commander of C Company, 2nd Battalion, 11th Infantry Regiment. “But when you look at the Soldier as a whole, there’s a lot more than just the physical. There’s the physical, mental, emotional — to include the spiritual.”

That last aspect of wellness was the focus of a morning trail run Nov. 13 with Infantry Basic Officer Leader Course students. Several students from the company volunteered to participate in the run, followed by a breakfast and remarks by Capt. Brandon Pye, senior platoon trainer for 3rd Platoon and active member of CrossPointe Church in Columbus.

“Think of your well-being — your physical, mental and emotional well-being — as a bank account, and you only get out what you put in,” Jack said. “That emotional, that spiritual aspect of it, you have to work on that as well, because when it’s all said and done and you have to draw from that bank account, if it’s not in there, you’re not going to have it when it really counts. We try to set a baseline, give you something you can use as a reference when you get out there. Once you get to your unit, you’re going to hit the ground running … and you’re going to need something to reflect back on. And this is where you get it. This is where you start.”

He said the purpose of the run was twofold: to give the lieutenants time to reflect on their spiritual fitness and show them an example of an event they could host in their own units someday.

At the close of the event, Pye shared with the Soldiers how spiritual fitness and fellowship is necessary for strength in challenging times.

“There are a lot of things in your military career that take a toll on you,” he said. “We’re all brothers. But that doesn’t come naturally. That comes through things like this. There’s a bonding of like minds that happens through this time, and part of that is the spiritual aspect. When you meet guys who have the same faith as you — whatever it may be — it bonds you together. And you need to be intentional about that time. A lot of that resilience comes through that brotherhood.”

Pye said it wasn’t enough for Soldiers to have spiritual fitness and resilience themselves; as leaders, they must foster a spirit of resilience in their platoons.

“Real leadership happens in the gaps,” he said. “It doesn’t happen when you’re in front of your platoon telling your platoon what to do. It happens when you’re sitting in your office … and you know you’re going to be there all night long working. And your Soldier comes in and says, ‘Hey, sir, I need to talk.’ That’s when real leadership happens — when you stop what you’re doing, you turn around in your chair and you look him in the eye and you say, ‘Hey, brother, what’s going on?’

“What we do is a higher calling, and you need to look at it that way. The Army doesn’t give us rank to glorify ourselves; the Army gives us rank to serve Soldiers better. You’re doing well by your organization by leading well and leading from the front and being physically fit, but you’re taking care of your Soldiers by being emotionally and spiritually resilient.”

Pye said there was often only one chaplain in a battalion of 1,000 Soldiers. When he was a platoon leader, he spent a lot of his time counseling Soldiers.

“At the end of the day, it’s about taking care of Soldiers, and to do that, you guys need to take care of yourselves,” he said.

“That makes a lot of sense,” said 2nd Lt. David Adams, after listening to his platoon trainer. “I’m definitely going to take that and use that. That’s definitely going to go in my toolbox.”

Adams said he enjoyed the morning and the opportunity to clear his head with the trail run. He’s one of more than 100 IBOLC students in the company who will likely become platoon leaders after graduation Feb. 14. Adams has orders for Fort Bragg, N.C.

Most of the Soldiers who don’t immediately join a line unit slated to deploy will continue to Ranger School, another challenging experience, said Capt. Michael Cox, an instructor with the unit who coordinated the run.

Either option will take a wealth of spiritual resilience, which is why the cadre put on this event — an “add-on to the normal program of instruction,” he said, designed to make the Soldiers more well-rounded.

“We try to make them tactically, technically proficient to be able to incorporate not just themselves and their organic assets but all possible elements in time and space,” Cox said. “(But) there’s more than just a warfighter element to it. They’re going to a unit and they’re going to be in charge of people: Soldiers, Families. They’re going to have Soldiers come to them with problems — financial, emotional, relational — and they need to be able to handle that.”

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