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Number of Soldiers taking GAT approaches million

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Jan. 21, 2011) -- The Army is closing in on a 1-million user milestone for those who have taken the "Global Assessment Tool" survey, the results of which serve as a starting point for an individual Soldier's journey though the Army's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program.

The Global Assessment Tool, or GAT, is a 105-question survey that assesses a Soldier in "four dimensions of strength," including emotional, social, spiritual and family. After taking the survey, Soldiers are offered an array of self-guided online courses that can help them strengthen themselves in those four areas

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Capt. Paul B. Lester, PhD, a research psychologist with the Army's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program, said in late January the Army will reach 1 million Soldiers who have taken the GAT since the Army began requiring them to complete the survey in October of 2009.

Now, said Lester, the Army can use information collected from the surveys to determine how it can better help Soldiers become resilient.

"We're starting to analyze the data, how people who are resilient are performing in the Army," Lester said. Feedback to Soldiers who have taken the GAT is also improving now to help them better understand how they scored, and how they compare to other Soldiers like themselves.

"We show them areas where they are doing well and areas where they can improve," he said. "We also connect them to online training and also allow them to compare themselves to others who are like them -- marital status, MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) or age, for instance."

The captain said it can be helpful for a Soldier to see that other Soldiers of the same age and in the same career field scored similarly on the GAT. It helps keep their own scores in perspective.

"Nobody passes or fails the GAT. It's a snapshot of where you are in time," he said. "And if you do our training, it'll help you improve over time."

The GAT is part of the Army's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program, which is meant to help equip Soldiers with the skills needed to deal with combat, marital difficulty, financial problems, family matters or the confluence of all those things.

The GAT measures how well a Soldier is equipped to deal with such adversity. After finishing the assessment, training is available to help Soldiers improve their coping skills. Additionally, the Army offers mid-level noncommissioned officers the "master resilience trainer" course that equips them with the skills they need to impart resilience on others in their units.

In January of 2010, the Army began an evaluation of the effectiveness of the CSF program by isolating eight brigade combat teams, evaluating those Soldiers with the GAT, and then offering those units varying levels of training under the CSF program. Later, those Soldiers would be given the GAT again, to measure the effects of the Army's CSF program.

"It'll give us a better understanding of the training and if the training is having the desired impact on the force," Lester said. "You want to see across time, is the training actually impacting people's lives. We're hoping to see that the people exposed to our training improve on the GAT at a faster rate than everybody else."

The evaluation period ends in March, Lester said.

The Army's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program kicked off in 2009 and includes the GAT, Master Resilience Training and self-guided development for Soldiers. The 105-question GAT survey is mandatory for Soldiers, but the results, and a Soldier's individual scores, are known only to the Soldier, not his commander. Commanders do have visibility of what Soldiers have completed the GAT, however.

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