Fort Lee training brigade members explore resiliency during summit

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Story by Terrance Bell on 11/23/2016
FORT LEE, Va. (Nov. 23, 2016) -- Soldiers, civilians and family members of the 59th Ordnance Brigade gathered for its first Resiliency Summit at the Ordnance Resiliency Training Center Nov. 16.

The event was organized to share information and best practices in an effort to help brigade members better deal with mission stresses, said Col. Sean Davis, 59th Ord. Bde., commander.

"It was about leveraging the collective gray matter intellect, experience and wisdom of this organization toward the resiliency of our Soldiers and families," he said. "When you look at it, there's not a single problem we can't fix when you have this amount of focus on it. That's what it's really about."

More than 80 people were in attendance for the summit. They included command teams from the brigade's 73rd Ord. Battalion, which has elements based at Fort Gordon, Ga.; Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.;and Fort Sill, Okla. The participants also included a few spouses and civilians.

The summit activities included informational sessions on family readiness group activities, Army Community Services resources and the Strong Bonds marriage enrichment program. There also were effective communication skills instruction and breakout sessions.

First Sergeant Matthew Banis, the lead NCO for Bravo Company, 832nd Ord. Bn., attended the event with his wife Alma. He said the forum offered constructive discussion on issues affecting most units in the brigade that serves as the Ordnance School's administrative support element. It included how to complement families whose Soldiers work long hours.

"The biggest challenge in this environment is the misconception that AIT units are places where you can take a knee," he said. "The brigade terms it TRADOC shock' but it is the exact opposite of that. You have people coming here from the operational Army, and they're working from 4:30 in the morning to sometimes 1930 or 2000 hours at night taking care of Soldiers.

"Out of that, it is very tough to have a program to get max participation in," he continued. "Some of the challenges we went over were ways to better our practices at the unit level to encourage participation in our FRG programs."

Spousal involvement and daytime activities such as luncheons are ways to better connect with families, said Brigette Gallagher, an FRG advisor.

"Instead of taking away family time, you try do things during the day," said the wife of Lt. Col. Timothy Gallagher, 832nd Ord. Bn. commander. "That's hard for spouses who work, so we try do a mix of things. We try to do things on Friday evenings like a bowling night . It's a unit event but it's a fun thing."

Gallagher said the 832nd also organizes a "spouses day for those who aren't working, whose kids are in school and who are able to come and see what their Soldiers are doing during the day and take part in their daytime activities."

The summit also wrestled with the challenge of finding ways to best integrate students and their families into FRG programs since their participation is limited by regulation, said Banis.

As a result of the summit, Davis said the next step is to put in place procedures and policies to facilitate and accommodate what was learned not just for the near term but for the distant future.

"The continuity of the lessons learned here are going to be critical," he said. "What we do when we leave here putting this in order, laying out the ideas, identifying best practices, writing SOPs and capturing our procedures will be key. But what it really comes down to is unleashing, the leadership onto the problem. It's not to say we haven't been doing it. Resiliency from day one has been a focus of this organization."

The 59th Ord. Bde. provides administrative and instructional support to the Ordnance School. The institution, one of the largest in the Army, annually graduates more than 27,000 students in 32 military occupational specialties at seven active duty installations and several reserve component regional training centers.

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