Pa. National Guard now stresses intervention, resilience
READING, Pa. — Four decades after the Vietnam War, the nation's military leaders have taken action to address some of the post-combat problems experienced by Vietnam vets.
Members of three Berks-based National Guard units, like others across the state, are getting special training to help their soldiers bounce back from stressful situations and to raise awareness of suicidal behavior.
"There is a big emphasis, from the top down, to mitigate suicide," said Sgt. 1st Class JoAnn Tresco of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. "It is one of the top priorities in the state."
Tresco, based at Fort Indiantown Gap in Lebanon County, leads the statewide Resilience Training Assistant program. It covers strategies for improving mental toughness, among other things.
Mark Todero, a civilian Guard employee who works with Tresco, leads the Suicide Prevention Program.
Todero, a retired sergeant major in the Guard, said his program teaches military personnel the signs and risk factors associated with suicide.
Hundreds of Army National Guard personnel already have been trained as resilience or suicide intervention specialists. They include members of Company C, 1st Battalion, 111th Infantry, based at the Kutztown Armory; Company D, 112th Infantry, based in Hamburg; and 2nd Squadron, 104th Cavalry, based in Reading.
Pennsylvania's Army National Guard and Air National Guard have about 19,000 members.
Todero said each company within a Guard unit is required to have at least two people trained as suicide intervention specialists.
One goal, he said, is to expand the program and deliver the training to all first-line leaders and others with interpersonal roles, like chaplains and medical personnel.
Tresco said the military has urged suicide intervention officers to be proactive.
"We are trained to act, to not hesitate," she said.
The resilience course, she said, teaches military personnel how to improve their ability to bounce back from difficult situations.
Among other things, it stresses positive thinking. One of its exercises involves the regular creation of mental or written lists of all the good things that happen through the course of a day.
"You are mitigating down negative thinking," Tresco said. "They are seeing things in a way that empowers them to handle challenges."