Filed under: Military life
Having children help out with dinner and keeping the same routine when a parent is deployed; marking a calendar with an X for every day their parent is away, and having a great support system are just a few of the strategies that the Sesame Street Workshop's program on "Preparing for Deployment" offers.
They also have age-appropriate workshops for younger children on "When Families Grieve," "Coping with Changes," and "Homecomings Family Routines."
Jumping rope is a good way to maintain fitness, particularly in confined environments such as on board a ship. If the pace is fast, the energy expenditure is similar to running. The Navy Seals Fitness Guide suggests the following ways to add variety into your jump rope routine:
- Boxer’s Dance: Shift weight from right to left with both feet together.
- Run: Jump to the right while lifting the right knee, then switch to left side.
- Jumping Jack: Jump 2 times with feet together then on the third time, do a jumping jack.
- Knee-toe: Tap right toe on the floor, jump to your left foot while lifting left knee up high, then switch.
When reuniting with your family, the “Soldier and Family Guide to Redeploying” offers tips for maintaining successful family relationships. A few of their suggestions:
- Take time to re-establish communication with each of your loved ones.
- Use romantic communication to help transition into love relations easier.
- Reinforce the good things your family has done.
- Move slowly in making adjustments.
- Discuss division of the family chores.
- Spend time alone with your spouse.
- Focus on successes and limit criticisms.
- Expect some changes in your child(ren).
- Spend relaxed time with your child.
If you are in an intimate relationship, take a moment to think about how your relationship is going. Relationships can often benefit from relationship enrichment programs. Each service offers relationship enrichment programs (some termed "marriage," some termed "relationships," and some termed "personal growth"). For more information, visit the Real Warriors program or the National Military Family Association websites.
- The Air Force offers “Marriage Care” as a weekend retreat post deployment.
- The Army offers single soldiers, couples, and families, relationship skill building weekend retreats called “Strong Bonds."
- The Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard offers Personal Growth retreats, Warrior Transition retreats, Marriage Enrichment retreats and Family Enrichment retreats under the Chaplain’s Religious Enrichment Development Operation (CREDO) Spiritual Fitness Division.
- National Guard and Reserve couples are eligible for the above programs as well as programs within the assignment state.
In all relationships, conflict management is often a key ingredient for success. However, the old belief that the best relationships are those without conflict is being replaced with the new understanding that conflict is normal in intimate relationships. The happiest couples, come to find out, are those who manage conflict without being destructive to each other.
Interestingly, research of couples problems over time shows that 31 percent of the problems couples deal with are solvable, and 69 percent are perpetual problems - so being able to manage differences over time is key to marital happiness!
Dr. John Gottman, having studied couples for over 20 years, found that there are key ingredients for relationship happiness:
- Having a strong friendship with your spouse.
- Being able to manage conflict in the relationship (and knowing which problems are solvable).
- Avoiding destructive behavior like criticism, contempt, defensiveness or ignoring your spouse.
- Building dreams and shared meaning with each other.
For military couples in particular, the ability to problem-solve and manage conflict is key to relationship happiness. Fortunately, problem-solving and conflict management are essential ingredients for Warfighter success. Through pre-deployment training, deployment, and reset, Warfighters within each branch learn key strategies for how to manage their emotions, identify problems, develop friendships, share memories together and map strategies for optimal outcomes - all of which are skills that can help foster great family relationships.
However, while deployed, each partner can change in ways that their spouse might not be aware of (both in theater and at home). That’s why making the effort to get to know each other again (even if you've been together for 50 years) is an important part of relationship happiness over time.
Take some time to ask your partner questions like:
- What attracted you to me when we first met?
- Who are your best friends at this point?
- What would you like to see happen for us in the next five years?
- What about yourself are you most proud of?
Questions like these can help foster friendship and positive feelings between you, and keep building dreams for a happy relationship and future together.
Source: These strategies were discussed at the recent American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists conference in September. Specific ideas from Dr. John Gottman's keynote speech, as well as Dr. Robert O'Brien's workshop on "Research-based Conflict Management After Combat Trauma," were used.
In the military, teamwork is vital to operational success. Frequently, multiple service branches work together as teams during combat operations. Practicing teamwork skills and building strong teams, that are adaptive and flexible, are essential for mission success, safety and efficiency of troops, and reduction of operational stress. Click here to read more on the various team building techniques used by the U.S. Army to prevent operational stress.
Hooah 4 Health describes the "7 Emotional Cycles of Deployment" for couples - that both the deployed partner and one at home experience. At first, there is anticipation of departure, then detachment and withdrawal. This can lead to feelings of emotional disorganization. Over time, each partner copes with the deployment so that recovery and stabilization occur. Then, anticipation of the partner's return can start the countdown to deployment’s end. Once back home, partners adjust and renegotiate their roles and can be completely reintegrated and stabilized within a few months. These stages are discussed in detail at the Hooah4Health website.
Failing a fitness test can get a Marine passed over for promotion, perhaps ending career hopes. According to this article from KVOA.com based in Tucson, AZ, there is growing pressure to hold marines to a higher standard for physical fitness and combat readiness. In response, the Marine Corps Semper Fit program is investing millions in new gyms with functional workout rooms, recreation programs, and nutrition classes.
Are PRTs still accurate assessments of physical fitness levels? The days of calisthenics and running several miles for exercise are gone. Comfort Zones and gyms on- or off-base are filled with exercise toys such as cable cross machines, Roman benches, kettlebells, and miles of cardiovascular equipment. Most military personnel are exercising with the latest technology, or at least with free weights. Shouldn’t PRTs utilize the most current knowledge of functional exercise and movement?
“Functional movement” is defined as real-world biomechanics of body movement. Sit-ups and push-ups are not functional; they show strength and/or flexibility, but not true overall fitness.
Gray Cook’s Functional Movement Screening (FMS), however, assesses the quality of seven functional movements to determine a persons’ symmetry, grading each movement (21 being a perfect score). FMS might be a better assessment in terms of a person’s total fitness level. Most studies using FMS have evaluated the prediction of injury rates based on the level of symmetry (for example: Military Joe shows rotary stability in the left shoulder but not in the right – the asymmetry of his shoulders most likely predicts injury when climbing walls in theater).
An unpublished study by COL Francis O’Connor, MD on injury prediction in Marine Corps Officer candidates (MC) found that those who scored 14 or higher (out of 21) had a lower injury rate. A study on NFL players also had similar findings.
Should the military re-evaluate its PRTs in terms of functional movement or should it stay with its current program? Contact us here at the HPRC if you have thoughts to share.
Research from the Harvard School of Public Health showed many years ago that individuals who exercise regularly die less from all causes. Although vigorous exercise, like running, produces greater gains, all that’s needed for good health is regular exercise. Regular physical activity has a positive effect on all of your body systems – it improves your mood and decreases anxiety, improves cognitive function, makes you stronger, and reduces your risk for many diseases like stroke, cardiovascular disease, many types of cancer, and adult onset diabetes. Even so, public health data from the Centers for Disease Control still shows that obesity and physical inactivity among adults in our country is high.
We at the Human Performance Resource Center are not only concerned with the total fitness of our Warfighters, but of all Americans. And like in many offices across the country, we work at desks, and fitness is something we have to carve out time for. But still, we do, as one of our staff members reports.
A few weeks ago, I went running with my super-tough Airborne Army son, a jumpmaster and SSG who’s been deployed many months over the last four years. When we last ran several years ago prior to his initial boot camp experience, I could outdistance him. Fortunately, that didn’t last long – six years and many runs later, this is no longer the case. The stories abound, and are hilarious. Like when he returned from his first 15-month deployment to Iraq: I had been running a lot and wanted to impress him with what good shape I was in. We hadn’t even made it out of my neighborhood, or hit the hills yet, and I was sucking wind. At that point he looked over and said, “Hey, Ma…we walkin’ or runnin’ today?” Fast forward to our five-mile run a few weeks ago in the midday July heat. I straggled back, having taken only a couple of one-minute walk breaks to catch my breath. Of course, he beat me back, and his greeting was, “Ma, you can do better than that!” But I know that underneath the teasing, he’s proud that his 50-year old mother is out that running with him, eating his dust. My response is, “Why aren’t there more mothers, sisters, brothers, fathers, sons, and daughters out here running with their Warfighter?”
So I challenge you: if we expect our Warfighters to be in optimal condition because their role, protecting our country, demands it – don’t we also have a responsibility to ourselves, our loved ones, and our country, to improve our health and reduce our healthcare costs? It doesn’t matter what you do to stay fit, only that you do something. Walk the dog, play outside with the kids, join an adult sports league, or go for a run – the possibilities are endless.