Commentary | Dec. 19, 2013

The Well of Fortitude

By Army Col. Pete Andrysiak 2d Engineer Brigade commander

Last month, I had the opportunity to speak to my Soldiers about resilience and the importance of constantly replenishing their personal wells of fortitude. The term was articulated by author and Army psychologist retired Army Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, who described the well as "a private reservoir of inner strength and fortitude."

When we experience stress by enduring life's trials, our wells are depleted accordingly. These personal trials can be physical, emotional, spiritual or intellectual. Anybody who draws too deeply from their well will eventually be in serious trouble, because they won't have the resilience to continue on. When good things happen, when we live healthy lifestyles and when we do things we enjoy, our wells are replenished.

The key to being resilient is consistently finding sources of replenishment. Every person is different and not everyone's sources for replenishment are the same, but there are a few that are almost universal.

One that I highly recommend is regular and vigorous physical activity. Exercise strengthens your body and helps you to cope with stress. I'm a firm believer that good physical training in the morning can set the tone for the rest of the day. That is why I expect units under my command to have well-planned and resourced PT every duty day and that every Soldier participates.

If the Trailblazers are pushing hard and experiencing intense, physically-demanding exercise every morning, then I know my Soldiers have a regular source of replenishment and the level of resilience across the ranks will remain high.

For most people, the holidays can also serve as a source of support. Spending time with family and friends, time off of work and the spirit of the season can do wonders for invigorating the human soul. But the military is a demanding lifestyle and thousands of your fellow service members will be away from their loved ones this holiday season. For them and others, the holidays can be a huge draw on their well.

The personal commitment and concern of a dedicated leader is a huge source for replenishing a service member's well. Leaders must know how each of their subordinates intends to spend the holidays. Talk to them about their plans, make recommendations and even consider if there is room at your table to invite them for a meal over the holidays.

Leaders who know their troops will be able to identify factors impacting those they are responsible for. Being away from family (especially for the first time), spending the holidays alone, abusing alcohol and other substances, a broken relationship and financial burdens can all be major draws from a person's well. Be aware of the trials and stresses in your troops' lives and find ways to help them identify sources of replenishment.

One of the most powerful sources I have found is spiritual replenishment through service to others. When you do something nice and unexpected for someone else, it becomes a source not only for yourself, but also for the person you've served. If you're feeling like your well is running low, find an opportunity to do something nice for someone else. You may be surprised at how much better you will feel by making a difference in someone else's life.

My wife, Casey, and I hope you will make the most of this special time of year. Do everything you can to replenish your personal well of fortitude while looking for opportunities to serve others. Happy holidays.

Arctic Trailblazers - Put 'em across!