By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (July 24, 2010) -- The Army has extended its concern about the mental fitness of Soldiers and their families to the civilians that serve stateside, abroad and in combat zones.
Department of the Army civilians are encouraged now to have their psychological resilience evaluated by the civilian version of the "Global Assessment Tool," which is part of the Army's "Comprehensive Soldier Fitness" program.
Three versions of the GAT are available now, through Army Knowledge Online. One version for Soldiers, one for their families, and now one for civilians. All three measure the same things, though with different questions, said Capt. Paul B. Lester, a research psychologist with the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Office.
"The factors are pretty much the same -- we're looking at social, emotional, spiritual and family fitness," Lester said. "A lot of the same things that are important to resilience to Soldiers are absolutely as important to civilians."
The military version of the online evaluation is mandatory for Soldiers -- so far more than 700,000 Soldiers have completed it. Army civilians, however, are not required to take the GAT -- though they are encouraged to do so, Lester said. Civilians can expect to spend about 15 minutes completing the online survey, and afterward they are given feedback about how they did.
"It's a self-awareness tool to help them get an idea of where they are strong, and also where they can improve," Lester said. "It gives you an idea of where you are on the resilience continuum."
After that, he said, GAT participants will have access to "comprehensive resilience modules," the same ones that Soldiers are doing, to help them improve their mental toughness.
"The skills we are providing are life skills," Lester said. "It's not only how to respond to and be resilient in the face of extreme adversity, as in combat setting, but how to deal with everyday stressors in family, at work, and in your personal and professional life."
There are some DA civilians who are deployed now to combat zones like Iraq or Afghanistan, Lester said. And while those civilians are not supposed to actually be participating in combat -- that's the job of Soldiers -- life in the combat zone is stressful. So assessing mental fitness and working to improve it is critical for both Soldiers and civilians.
"Psychological resilience in a deployment situation is absolutely critical," he said. "The work there is hard, the hours long, and the separation from family and friends is challenging."
Even Army civilians at work stateside or at Army installations overseas can benefit from participating, Lester said.
"We train people, at an individual level, how to be a better team member," he said. "At the leader level, how being a better team member impacts the overall team. It's not only individual performance but the additive effect of better individual performance leading to better team performance."
Lester also said that the results of the GAT are confidential, and that supervisors "will never see" the results of an employee's participation in the assessment.