Okay. At the end of my answers to your questions, if I actually skip one, please remind me.
Let me first say that we started looking at changing the way we do mental health training because the way it went in 2001 and 2002, when the war in Afghanistan started, was that the U.S. military had no standardized mental health training program at all--neither the army nor the air force nor the marine corps nor the navy. So one of the things we thought would be useful was to standardize the training and at the same time to answer a fundamental question: is mental health training effective or useful?
So we took a step back and asked, what is it that soldiers need to know, and when do they need to know it? So if a soldier is getting ready to deploy to combat for six months or a year or longer, what should you tell them? What does a soldier, a marine, an airman, or a sailor need to know? And when they're in the combat environment, what do we need to tell them and how do we support them to sustain them for the period of the combat deployment? Then when they come home, what do we tell them? What are the things we should tell them?
In the U.S. Army, when soldiers come back they're basically in garrison for two weeks, and then they're kicked loose for a month of leave. So what do you tell a soldier who you're not going to see for a month about mental health?
One of the things we decided right up front is that we needed to take a strength-based approach. That is, we did not want to go in assuming that a soldier or a service member was going to have problems. In fact, what we tell them is that being in military service, they have lots of strengths, and what we want them to do is to use those skills, to use those strengths, to facilitate their transition home and to prepare themselves to go into combat and to sustain themselves there. So it focuses on skills and strengths, not on weaknesses and disorders.
As part of our ongoing assessment, what we always do is that we ask our soldiers, what did you think of the training? Was the training useful? Did you learn something? Was the instructor good?
So we go through a training evaluation, if you will. And across the board, anywhere from the high eighties to middle nineties, in terms of percentage, of soldiers rated the training as either good or excellent. If you can get junior enlisted soldiers to say mental health training is good to excellent at those rates, you've really hit a home run.
I should say also, and I'm sure you're aware of this, that the Canadian Forces actually employs the post-deployment battlemind training in their third location decompression site, and they're getting equally positive responses from those service members who attend that training.
Now, the training itself is unique in a couple of ways. One is that in the U.S. military before the introduction of battlemind training, we would bring soldiers in a battalion at a time. So there would be 700 to 800 soldiers in a noisy auditorium, and a mental health person would come in and talk for ten minutes and then leave. What we've done with this training is that it's designed to be done in small, platoon-sized groups of 25 to 30 service members per group. There is an instructor, a facilitator, but the facilitation is also interactive. While it's didactic in the sense that soldiers get a powerpoint presentation, they're also encouraged to interact and share their experiences.
So the veterans who deployed before can share their experiences of what they went through, how they transitioned and how they adjusted. And that serves to normalize the symptoms and reactions that other soldiers may have, because one of the things we really focus on, for example, in post-deployment is three elements. We focus on normalizing symptoms and reactions; we focus on safety, that is, soldier safety and the safety of families, because we don't want service members coming back and getting into trouble, through violence and stuff; and then we focus on taking care of each other.
So you may be fine, but look at your buddy; take care of your buddy. As a leader, look after your subordinates. So there's a self-aid component to it, and there's what we call in the military your “buddy aide”, or your “mate”, which I think is the word used in Canada. Then we also have the leadership, that junior leader responsibility of looking out for their subordinates as well.
We try to have all of those elements at every one of the training modules, to tell them things to focus on differently, whether it's pre-deployment, during deployment, or post-deployment.
I'm giving it to you in a nutshell, but that's sort of what the program consists of.
Did I answer all your questions? If not, I apologize for that.