Call it tool time. Soldier 360 is a leader’s comprehensive fitness course, but “tools” is the buzzword used by several of the 45 noncommissioned officers who graduated from the two-week long class at the Kaiserslautern Community Activity Center here, June 16.
“This course has given us a number of tools we can put in our toolbox and retrieve whenever we need them,” said Sgt. 1st Class Neil Lamont III, a platoon sergeant with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 170th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
The tools Lamont refers to are the methods, procedures and techniques being taught and practiced during Soldier 360. The course aims to enhance an NCO’s leadership skills, increase their self-awareness and understanding, facilitate their stress, anger and anxiety management, and improve their overall wellness and resilience.
Col. Mary S. Lopez, the course director, calls Soldier 360 a franchise concept.
“It (Soldier 360) can be replicated everywhere. We take a small team and add existing resources,” she said. “Every time you reach a Soldier it is like saving a starfish,” according to Lopez, after telling a story of the never-ending task of throwing all starfish washed ashore back into the water.
The current period of sustained combat operations and resultant multiple deployments and increased operational tempo places considerable strains on servicemembers and their families.
The Army is adopting a more holistic approach to help them face the ensuing physical and psychological challenges and build their strength and resiliency.
“Soldier 360 teaches them different modalities to handle different situations. They practice their own self-care,” said Maj. Glen Wurglitz, a clinical psychologist who facilitated the course with Lopez.
“You can’t give what you haven’t got,” added Wurglitz, meaning a Soldier has to know how to take care of him or herself before he or she is able taking care of others.
The range of topics and techniques in the course include stress and anger management, biofeedback, relaxation, yoga, meditation, physical fitness and conditioning, injury prevention, pain management, relationships, communication, conflict resolution, nutrition, sleep, combat stress, post-traumatic stress, and alcohol management. According to the testimonials given by 14 NCOs at the graduation ceremony, they “got” it.
“Today I am a better leader,” said Sgt. Shaun Newman, a shop foreman with the 21st Theater Sustainment Command’s 18th Military Police Brigade. “I was a bit skeptical at first, but I have learned a lot about myself and about leadership.”
“The most important lesson I’ve learned here is that I have to take care of myself so I can take care of my Soldiers. This course has given me the tools to do so,” said Staff Sgt. Judi Hart, the noncommissioned officer in charge at the personnel services section of the 21st TSC’s Special Troop Battalion. NCOs were impressed with how different the curriculum and delivery was from their more traditional military training.
“I had no idea what to expect, but this is the best class I’ve ever attended in my career,” said Sgt. Shariece Summers, a cadre member of the 21st TSC’s Forward Operating Base. “It (Soldier 360) needs to be incorporated in all NCO schools and should be an annual class at every unit.”
“Every exercise we did seemed surprising at first. Then after you learned what it was all about and why we did it, it was like a light bulb came on,” added Hart. “Soldier 360 is very powerful, very impressive.”
Soldier 360 targets career NCOs with combat experience and are nominated by their commander. The course equips them as first line leaders with the tools necessary to identify Soldier issues, intervene if needed, and provide prompt referrals.