Academic journal article Military Review

Religious Participation: The Missing Link in the Ready and Resilient Campaign

Academic journal article Military Review

Religious Participation: The Missing Link in the Ready and Resilient Campaign

Article excerpt

Imagine you are taking command of a battalion. Your selection for command is the culmination of many years of hard work, dedication, and accomplishment. You feel it a great privilege to receive the opportunity to serve at the battalion-level as leader of some of America's best and brightest. However, your elation quickly dims as the heavy burden of command begins to present unwelcome challenges.

In your first month of command, myriad problems raise their nasty heads, and not one seems remotely related to tactical decision making or combat leadership. The first problem occurs within the first week when an early morning phone call startles you awake with the bad news that a sergeant in Bravo Company has taken his own life. The memorial service is hardly complete when another company reports an attempted suicide. Within the next two weeks, late night phone calls notify you of a domestic violence allegation against one of your soldiers, the arrest of two others for getting into a fight while downtown during a night of drinking, and the detention of an officer from Alpha Company for driving under the influence of alcohol. Your command tour appears to be off to a bad start, and the battalion has not even gone to the field yet.

After consulting with your command sergeant major and investigating the incidents with your staff and affected subordinate commanders, it seems as if the chain of command has done everything right. Command-climate surveys indicate a generally positive climate in the companies; required instruction is current; master resilience trainers are appointed and active, and other required programs seem to be in place.

In a moment of exasperation, you pull out the Ready and Resilient Execution Order (EXORD) and subsequent campaign documents to see if there is anything you may have missed. However, you are disappointed. You discover that although the Army has devoted much time, talent, and money to the Ready and Resilient Campaign, you find barely a mention in campaign documents of one definitive way to help improve resilience and personnel readiness.

What you will not find in any of the Ready and Resilient literature is the vast body of research (identified throughout this article) that reveals active participation in religious communities leads to better overall physical, emotional, and mental health. Unfortunately, the EXORD appears to provide minimal acknowledgment of the power of such participation in religious groups to build and sustain personal as well as unit readiness and resilience.

Ready and Resilient Campaign

When the chief of staff of the Army established his strategic priorities in 2013, the priorities included goals under the heading "Soldiers Committed to Our Army Profession" One goal was to "build the comprehensive physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual resiliency of our soldiers, civilians, and their families to enable them to thrive personally and professionally" (1) Yet, in the subsequent EXORD, which outlines the specific actions necessary to attain this goal, there is only one passing mention of spirituality. There is no direct reference to involvement in organized religious groups even though the need to build physical, mental, and emotional resilience appears numerous times. The Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness (CSF2) subcomponent of the program nominally incorporates a spiritual aspect to overall fitness, but the resulting definitions and associated questions on the Global Assessment Tool do not ask about religious faith; they instead employ language seemingly adapted to the tastes of secular humanists that avoids direct reference to religion. (2)

Should the complete absence of religion be troubling to Army professionals interested in strengthening the resilience of their troops? Absolutely. Failure to include religious observance as a tool for building individual and unit resilience should be very troubling since the body of peer-reviewed research on the positive link between active participation in religious observance and overall physical and mental health is abundant and compelling. …

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