Sapper-Athlete-Warrior Program: An Integrated Approach to Applied Mental Skills Training That Reveals Best Practices For Periodized Training.

Maryrose Blank, CSF2-PREP, USA
Brian Wade, Fort Bragg, USA
Jessica Garza, DCS, USA

Theme: Mental training/interventions

Program ID: LEC-12A

Presentation: October 5, 2013 8:15 am - 9:30 am

Room: Rosedown


In December 2011, the leadership of 307th Engineer Battalion decided it was time for fundamental change in how they prepared physically and mentally for combat. Upon returning from a strenuous National Training Center rotation, the Battalion had 35% of its Soldiers on medical profile, causing some to be non-deployable. The Battalion Commander developed the Sapper Athlete Warrior Program (SAW), aimed at training six principles: mental toughness, functional fitness, resilience, self-reliance, wellness, and recovery. The Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness-Performance and Resilience Enhancement Program (CSF2-PREP) designed an integrative mental skills training protocol, tailored for route clearance missions. Each month six companies received instruction on a mental skill, which was then applied within their physical, technical, and tactical environment (i.e. ranges, physical training, field training, SAW Challenges). Following goal setting (Locke and Latham, 1990; Loehr and Schwartz, 2003), the principles of the thought-performance-relationship (Ellis, 1981; 1996) were systematically periodized throughout the battalion’s pre-deployment cycle. Effective thinking and self-regulation skills were developed using attention control cues and pre-performance routines (Neideffer, 1976; Ravizza and Hanson, 1995), cognitive reframing approaches (Apter, 1982; Burton & Raedeke, 2008; Eliot, 1004; Kerr, 1993; Lazarus, 1999), and physiological nervous system activation through deliberate biofeedback training (Benson, 1975; Benson 2006; Benson and Klipper 2000; Grossman and Christensen, 2008; Hanin, 1997). Leadership and platoons also participated in a team building, “great teams” exercise where they developed platoon creeds focused on commitment (Jansen, 1999), attributes, actions, and attitudes (Zinsser, et al., 2004). The results of the program revealed significant changes in the number of medical profiles, Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) and weapons qualification scores, and graduates of advanced leadership courses. The deliberate and purposeful strategy of this combat readiness program has become a best practice in training lifelong physical and mental well-being for the Soldiers of the United States Army.

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