FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Dec. 3, 2021) – “You’ll never conquer what you won’t confront, and you won’t confront what you won’t admit,” said Dr. Donna Ferguson, U.S. Army Military Police School Behavioral Sciences Education and Training Division chief, as she spoke to leaders from the 3rd Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment Wednesday in Thurman Hall about mental health.
According to Lt. Col. Matthew Mason, 3-10 Inf. Bn. commander, the battalion invited Ferguson to assist with what they called a rehearsal-of-concept drill, the focus of which was bringing awareness to some of the stressors that trainees and cadre members experience.
The information, Mason said, provided an overview of the roots of stressors, the warning signs of possible stressors, coping skills and, most importantly, tools for leaders and battle buddies to employ in the event they should notice and or have to intervene with a battle buddy who needs support.
“With the holiday season coming up, it can become a very exciting and well-deserved time with family and friends,” Mason added. “However, this time of season also brings additional stressors we might not be accustomed to on a regular basis. We owe it to our trainee, cadre and dependent population to be well versed in knowing the signs of stressors that we all face from time to time. We also must be aware of how to respond to trainees, cadre and family members in need of support, and we must know all the external resources available to assist them.”
Ferguson noted it’s important to differentiate between and correctly define the actual problem someone may be facing versus any manifestations of the problem. Suicide, for example, is not a problem — suicide is the manifestation of a problem — and simply attempting to treat a manifestation does not affect the root issue.
In explaining how a root problem becomes a bigger issue, Ferguson used the analogy of a tree. The problem is a seed that eventually branches out into behaviors. If a divorce is the seed, for example, some of the branches of behavior might include insecurity, low self-esteem, pride and arrogance.
One of the attendees who took a lot of notes during Ferguson’s presentation was Capt. Jeff Ferrel, who took command of Bravo Company about four months ago.
Ferrel said the trauma tree is a very good and easy visualization to follow, and it can be quickly drawn and used as an example for anyone else.
“This visualization is going to be the easiest way for me to try to communicate this with my lack of knowledge,” he said.
While attending the Basic Officer Leader Course here a few years ago, Ferrel tore an anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL. He said he now speaks about mental injuries in the same breath as physical injuries.
“With all of my physical injuries, I got those treated because they were important and they were very obvious,” he said. “Unfortunately, the psychological injuries aren’t usually as obvious, but they are just as important to address.”
Another attendee was one of Ferrel’s drill sergeants at Bravo Company, Sgt. 1st Class Sean Van Sice. He said opportunities to grow and share knowledge about mental health are crucial to the Army as a whole in adopting a major cultural shift.
“You can say there’s no stigma to admitting you need help all day, but if I tell you, ‘It’s OK if you go, but I’m not going to go,’ you’re never going to get anywhere,” he said.
Van Sice, who has been in the Army for 12 years, said it begins with leaders at every level learning more.
“The suffering in silence, hiding in plain sight, that’s a real thing in the Army,” he said. “I’ve gone to behavioral health multiple times in my career because I had leaders who said they went as well.”
With 85 percent of his battalion relatively new to the unit, Mason said now is a great time to focus on retraining and addressing areas that continue to erode trust within the Army ranks and the civilian population. Besides mental health, the battalion has also focused over the past few months on refreshing its ranks on the Army’s Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention, or SHARP, and Equal Opportunity programs and any updates to regulations, policies, process and procedures for reporting or informing. Domestic dispute response training is also planned to take place before the start of Holiday Block Leave.
After completing the training Wednesday, Mason said the drill will culminate with command teams assessing their trainee, cadre and dependent population for at-risk individuals.
“Our goal is to get ahead of any possible foreseen stressors and help get everyone through the holiday season and beyond with a solid care plan,” he said. “We are a family, and as a family, we must take care of each other.”
About Fort Leonard Wood
Fort Leonard Wood is a thriving and prosperous installation that has evolved from a small basic training post 80 years ago to a premier Army Center of Excellence that trains nearly 80,000 military and civilians each year.
Fort Leonard Wood is home to the U.S Army Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and three U.S. Army schools: the U.S. Army Engineer School; U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School; and the U.S. Army Military Police School. In addition to training engineer, CBRN and military police specialties for the Army, Fort Leonard Wood also provides gender-integrated in-processing and Basic Combat Training for new Soldiers.
Fort Leonard Wood also hosts and trains with the largest Marine Corps Detachment and Air Force Squadron on any Army installation as well as a large Navy construction detachment.
More information about Fort Leonard Wood is at: https://home.army.mil/wood/index.php/about/mission