In an effort to ensure that Soldiers and Family Members arriving at Fort Drum have all the tools they need to be successful, several changes have been made to the inprocessing schedule.
Until last November, inprocessing was completed in five duty days. While this was sufficient for some Soldiers, many were unable to attend some of the recommended briefings and events that took place outside of those scheduled days, said James Garrett, chief of the Military Personnel Division.
“Army regulations require us to complete several tasks during inprocessing,” Garrett said. “Not all of them were able to be fit in with the five-day schedule – whether it is the agency’s scheduling or the unit’s schedule that conflicts.”
Soldiers attended the structured briefings, but they often missed those that occurred outside of their scheduled days because of things like the arrival of household goods, medical appointments or unit-scheduled activities. As a result, many missed out on important information, said Brian O’Connor, supervisor of the Personnel Services Branch.
“One of the changes we made was to incorporate all of those briefings within the regular inprocessing schedule,” O’Connor said. “We are now at a much higher completion rate – almost 100 percent.”
Some of the briefings that Soldiers missed most often touched upon some very important subject material such as resiliency, suicide prevention and financial planning. It was very important to Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, Fort Drum and 10th Mountain Division (LI) commander, that all Soldiers attended these valuable training sessions, Garrett said.
“Soldiers are at their most vulnerable when they are transitioning,” he said. “They are uprooting their Families from their churches, from their communities – from all kinds of support networks that they have. They don’t have these supports when they first come here, so we want to make sure that they get training and focused attention that would help them during that transition period.”
The new eight-day schedule provides ample time for Soldiers to get established on Fort Drum before getting involved with their unit’s operational tempo.
Scarlett Sharkey, Army Community Service Relocation Readiness Program manager, said that the new schedule also provides additional time for Soldiers to resolve any issues that may arise as they inprocess.
“We used to provide just a basic ACS brief at the beginning of inprocessing,” Sharkey said. “Now we are their first briefer, and then we present the sponsorship training toward the end of inprocessing. It’s more in-depth, and we get a change to interact with the Soldiers and Families much more.”
Sharkey said that representatives from ACS provide Soldiers with a packet of information to get them started and remind them to keep a list of questions or concerns that they have as they go through the process.
“They get a chance to start to settle in, and then they come back to us when they really have questions.”
Being able to check in with ACS representatives later in the process means that Soldiers and Family Members can be connected with the resources that they need to solve any issues that arise as they are getting settled, she said.
One major change to the inprocessing schedule is the addition of a Master Resiliency Training course.
Sgt. 1st Class Stephen King, Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness program manager, explained that resiliency training is now an annual training requirement for Soldiers.
“The resiliency training used to be a 15-minute brief given at Clark Hall,” King said. “Now it is a andatory two-day course given in a structured environment. It’s a good base to accomplish the mission of providing Soldiers with the skills we have identified as most important.”
Among these skills are optimism, assertive communication and self awareness, all of which Soldiers can use in their day-to-day lives, he said.
Providing Soldiers with resiliency training during inprocessing means that Soldiers can brush up on tools that they can use to help them cope with tough situations, Garrett said.
“We give the resiliency training to them up front to be sure that it’s fresh in their mind. It reminds them that they can use these resiliency tools to get through their transition,” he said.
Garrett said that the units also benefit.
“It helps the units with their annual training requirements on a lot of these high-risk, need-to-do training events, because they are done before the Soldier ever gets to their unit,” Garrett said. “It aids them in getting the Soldier integrated into the unit and into their mission-focus.”
The interactive course also introduces Soldiers to a variety of support services available to them on the installation. King said it is important that Soldiers understand that help is available to them, no matter what they might be going through.
“We are trying to break the stigma,” he said. “I was raised in units whose motto was ‘rub some dirt on it and keep moving.’ Things are very different now. No one should be afraid to get the help that they need.”
Another new requirement for inprocessing Soldiers is completion of a 90-minute Ask, Care, Escort suicide prevention training. There are two different levels of the course that are currently being offered – one geared at first-term Soldiers and the other catered to the needs of leaders.
Suicide Prevention Program manager Lori Starr said that incorporating this training into inprocessing helps command staff to meet training requirements. More importantly, she said, it means that all incoming Soldiers know what resources are available to them.
“This change has allowed us immediate access to Soldiers coming to Fort Drum,” Starr said. “These Soldiers receive current information on Fort Drum trends and support resources.”
Starr said the ACE training lets Soldiers know that their well-being is important to Fort Drum. They also learn to recognize when a comrade is in need of assistance.
“We hope that (Soldiers) leave training knowing that the safety of our Soldiers is important to us and that one death is one too many,” Starr said. “We also stress the significance behind intervention. It’s important to keep an eye out for each other.”
It is important to note that Family Members are invited to attend the majority of training sessions their Soldier is schedule to attend, said Sgt. 1st Class Vittorio Grady, operations noncommissioned officer in charge of inprocessing.
“The information provided in these classes and briefings really helps Soldiers and Family Members to adjust to life on Fort Drum,” Grady said. “The Civilian workforce is very enthusiastic about the information they are providing. They make the briefs very interactive and informative for everyone.”