Military Wire: Army’s $287 million Optimism Program results in low morale

Michael Schindler
Michael Schindler

The data from a recently released report highlighting the physical and psychological health of troops who participate in the Army Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness program, a program launched in 2009 designed to build troop resiliency, was disavowed by Sharyn Saunders, chief of the Army Resiliency Directorate.

The reason?

Despite the $287 million campaign to boost morale and resiliency, findings obtained by USA Today revealed the effort produced “startlingly negative results: more than half said they were pessimistic about their futures and nearly as many said they have little satisfaction in or commitment to their job.” The results were compiled from more than 770,000 soldier answers.

Under General Casey, then Army Chief of Staff, the Army launched the Army Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness program to improve troop psychology. With two wars and both suicide and mental illness on the climb, it was an effort designed to assess troop resiliency and then provide tools, online resources and trainings that would ultimately improve morale.

According to David Rudd, president of the University of Memphis, who served on a scientific panel that reviewed the findings, the program “has not had much impact in terms of overall health.”

Sharyn Saunders disagreed that the program had little impact. Her response, “I’ve sat and looked at your numbers for quite some time and our team can’t figure out how your numbers came about.”

Perhaps they should have “looked” at the numbers for more than “quite some time”?

After the inquiry into the numbers, the Army calculated new findings – ultimately lowering the threshold so the score would lead to a positive result. Instead of 52 percent of soldiers scoring badly in the area of optimism, which was the result of the original findings, the recalculations determined that only 9 percent of soldiers scored poorly in optimism.

I only hope the IRS is observing Army math and applies that same method to my taxes.

A recent survey conducted by the Military Times and a Navy Retention Study confirmed the original results – that troops are generally unhappy.

Bottom line: In all fairness, there are components of CSF2 that are helpful – providing tools that will help improve social, emotional, physical, family and spiritual components of ones’ life is important. But no amount of money will force one to deploy what is absolutely critical in helping solve the issue: discipline.

When one exercises discipline and partners that with purpose, family life, faith, health and finances tend to fall in line.

Now, if they can apply some of that $287 million to my taxes for this bit of advice, my morale will definitely improve.

By Michael Schindler

Michael Schindler, Navy veteran, and president of Edmonds-based Operation Military Family, is a guest writer for several national publications, author of the book “Operation Military Family” and “The Military Wire” blog. He is also a popular keynote and workshop speaker who reaches thousands of service members and their families every year through workshops and seminars that include “How to Battle-Ready Your Relationship” or “What Your Mother-in-Law Didn’t Tell You.” He received the 2010 Outstanding Patriotic Service Award from the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.

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