FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (April 28, 2021) — “Who then is invincible? The one who cannot be upset by anything outside their reason choice.”
Those words were written by Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus about 2,000 years ago, and they serve a purpose today for trainees here in a temporary hold status.
“I think one of the strengths of stoicism is that it is really focused on what you can control and not getting too stressed out about things outside those boundaries,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Craig McDonald, 3rd Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment chaplain and one of the co-creators of a new Initial Entry Training hold playbook — a one-stop, 140-page holistic resource on mental, physical and spiritual growth for those waiting to start or return to training.
“That’s exactly what controlled monitoring is; that’s exactly what isolation is; what quarantine is — it’s important to focus on what you can control while understanding your limitations, but still having the power to have some control over how you feel, think and do,” he added.
McDonald said the new Army Field Manual 7-22 highlights the strengths of spirituality.
“Even for folks who don’t necessarily identify as religious,” he added. “You can find a level of spirituality in certain things like philosophy, reflection, meditation — so, you don’t necessarily have to have a religious background to tap into that spirituality side that can give you some strengths and help you in tough times.”
The other co-creator, 2nd Lt. Jayelyn Lewis, 2nd Battalion, 48th Infantry Regiment personnel staff officer who formerly served as a 3-10th platoon leader, said the purpose of the playbook is to be a tool for trainees while not in a training status.
In addition to motivational quotes, the book includes soldiering information and physical readiness exercises. Trainees with access to a smart phone can also use included QR codes to watch videos and read articles that provide additional details.
Lewis said her idea for the book came from her own experiences living alongside trainees and other service members in the quarantine and isolation barracks.
“I thought (the trainees) could be doing things to stay motivated, keep their spirits high,” she said.
The information in the book is organized cumulatively by days — 14 in all to coincide with the standard length of COVID-19 quarantine. Each chapter begins by asking the trainee to reflect on a quote, and then provides wellness and instructional information, such as radio etiquette or movement formations.
“I saw each day (how) we could break it up — do this day one; this on day two — it’s different exercises that gives them a plan and not just a book of stuff to do,” Lewis said. “I had been to basic training before I became an officer. I wanted to make this about things they are going to need and things I saw from my level as a platoon leader.”
The first chapter introduces trainees to the phonetic alphabet, physical readiness training, tips on controlled breathing and the benefits of getting a proper night’s sleep. By the last chapter, the trainees are identifying terrain on a land-navigation map.
McDonald and Lewis arrived at Fort Leonard Wood around the same time — both ended up being quarantined around the same time as well.
“We both were seeing a need,” McDonald said. “I started just building a worksheet for the trainees, and then 2nd Lt. Lewis had a bigger vision and came up with some ideas on incorporating a lot of different holistic things, too.”
“He brought his portion to it and I brought my idea up to my commander,” Lewis added. “(The battalion leadership said), ‘Hey, why don’t you two tackle this together?’ So, we took his worksheets, which became the spiritual portion and I developed the content for mental things and exercises.”
By November, most of the content was completed — it was finalized in March after more input.
“It was a work in progress,” Lewis said. “We had an idea about what was going in each section and then we talked it over at the battalion, the brigade … it developed beyond just us.”
Now completed at brigade level — 1,000 copies have been printed so far — the book was first distributed solely by McDonald and Lewis.
“We printed about 80 copies on our little printer,” McDonald said.
The playbook has been well received by the trainees in hold status.
“It gave us something useful to do that would help us,” Pvt. Chase Gower said.
“Quote of the days were really helpful — added inspiration,” Pvt. Joseph Owens added.
About Fort Leonard Wood
Fort Leonard Wood is a thriving and prosperous installation that has evolved from a small basic training post more than 75 years ago to a premier Army Center of Excellence that trains more than 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