Initial development and evaluation of the mental training program
Jonathan Anderson, Army/University of the Rockies, USA
Theme: Mental training/interventions
Program ID: SYM-12
Presentation: October 3, 2013 2:30 pm - 3:45 pm
Room: Oak Alley
The idea to implement a mental skills training (MST) program in Infantry basic training came from years of recorded use across the U.S. Army at small unit levels. Anecdotal observation revealed promising trends in performance enhancement of combat operations (e.g. increased efficiency, minimized mistakes, and increased rate of mission accomplishment) of platoons at Joint Base Lewis-McChord after development and implementation of a tailored MST program. The challenge for this group of practitioners was to develop and implement a similar program with a larger unit (company) within the performance environment of Basic Training. This process began with one company of Infantry Basic Training Soldiers, experienced Drill Sergeants, and cadre in order to develop and refine an effective MST model. A short train up period prepared the cadre to coach and reinforce the MST program that lead up to the company receiving 220 new Soldiers to train over a 14 week period. The MST program targeted the application of mental skills directly to key Soldier performances. In order to evaluate the mental training programs effectiveness and need for future modification, the unit tracked three standardized performance markers; marksmanship scores, Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) scores, and attrition rate. Soldiers within this company achieved marksmanship scores 10% higher than the average group during that period. Furthermore, physical fitness scores averaged 15% higher than the comparison groups and attrition levels, or individuals that quit or failed to meet the standard, dropped from 10% to 1%. These observations and available trends served as enough evidence to warrant scientific investigation. As practitioners, we viewed the available evidence as a pattern of indicators that supported a continuation of mental skills training with future companies in future training cycles as a way to determine if the trends were replicable and/or transferrable.