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Real Life Leadership: Understanding a Soldier’s attitude and beliefs are the greatest variables that determine the Soldier’s decisions.


There are three objectives to this article.  First, I would like to introduce you to Real Life Management (RLM).  Second, I want to briefly paint a picture of a Chaplain using RLM at a unit by telling you a few stories.  Third, I will share my own perspective from the ongoing-statistical research that I gather weekly to verify and validate my own voice. 

As a Chaplain, I talk with Soldiers and Families on a daily basis not only about faith issues, including Chaplains and Commanders outside of 4BCT, but teaching and counseling about ‘real-life’ issues: health, money, and relationships.  I have found understanding the core attitude and beliefs of individuals allow me to understand the greatest variables of their decisions, and I have been taught skills and been given tools to validate this understanding through RLM. 

The author, Wayne Nance,  along with well-renowned authors and researchers, have been studying for more than twenty-five years in the areas of finances, relationships, and health.  The cornerstone of the RLM system is the author’s proprietary 3-Minute Survey, which enables a person to understand the attitude and beliefs that effect their daily decisions.   Real Life Management realizes that “people everywhere are struggling with choices in their life concerning their Health, their Finances, and their Relationships. RLM believes that these issues are actually interrelated, and seeks to provide keen insight into how individuals communicate and make choices. “   RLM continues to research and study patterns of people in the context of character, study and learning habits, leadership, relationship management, risk for addictive behaviors,  obesity, substance abuse, divorce, domestic violence, suicide tendencies, reaction to stress and distress, healthy lifestyle management, money management and debt control and faith development.  Attached to this article is a document that demonstrates the issues RLM can validate with each Soldier.

Prior to the Army, I personally spent thousands of dollars to be trained in RLM’s system and throughout the past ten years have become a Master-Leader Trainer with them.  RLM has produced the greatest return of investment (ROI) for me as a husband, father, son, and Chaplain. I presently serve as a Chaplain with 1CD, 4BCT, 1-9 CAV, and I have been with this unit since February 2010.  It is hard to put a value (time and resources) on saved marriages, mitigation of poor choices, better communication skills and understanding for Army teams and knowledge of oneself and of one’s destructive behavior.   What is the value of one Soldier’s life? 

 Before we deployed in the fall of 2010, my former Squadron Commander, LTC John Cushing, allowed me the opportunity to survey all of my Troopers who were to deploy.   Upon arrival in Iraq, we completed the remaining Troopers’ surveys.  

On January 15, 2011, an Iraqi-insurgency masked as an Iraqi Soldier shot and killed two of our Troopers and deathly injured another.  But the third Soldier has survived and was able to meet our Troopers on the airfield once we re-deployed. After sitting in six reconstructive meetings concerning the details of that life-altering event, I was able to overlay each Soldier’s pattern with the decisions that played out that day.  I was able to see the decisions that were made by the Troopers and how they reacted to what could have been a day even more Soldiers were lost. 1-9 CAV Troopers acted courageously on behalf of their brothers, and I am grateful to be part of this unit.  

Before re-deployment, I was able to develop three re-integration classes for our unit with RLM material.  With my unit leadership support and support from my former BDE CH (MAJ) Mike Patterson, I developed small-groups with section integrity versus our “herd mentality” to make sure the box is checked.   I was able to use RLM material to teach 242 section-level briefs concerning money management, stress management and communication to our Troopers. I taught each subject 80+ times. After these briefs were completed, we had 200+ Soldiers choose to come back for more training with these materials. I believe learning is more effective if one wants to learn vs. has to learn.

I have been able to study the patterns of our Troopers  in a combat and garrison environment who have made poor decision of substance abuse, alcohol, adultery, motorcycle irresponsibility, suicide ideations and other choices of litigation that plague the Army’s resources, whether leadership time allotment, a hospital’s allocation of resources, or the multi-faceted array of resources available to our Soldiers and Families.  We will mitigate or litigate these decisions as they play out in real-time within our units. 

Last week, I surveyed twenty-five new Troopers in our unit’s newcomer’s brief.  I collected the surveys and was reviewing them as someone else was speaking to the new Troopers.  I whispered in my CSM’s ear, “This particular Trooper will need some assistance because of his pattern and would be prone to make poor decisions.”  Unknown to me, he had participated in poor choices the night before. My CSM looked at me and said, “That is crazy! How did you know this?”

   Are you able to choose or spot your most high-risk Soldiers within a group of 25, 50, or 100?    If we were able to be 50% accurate or 30% accurate, would this help us to provide opportunities for our leadership to assist our Soldiers?   This same skill set with RLM material was used at a Single Soldier Strong Bonds retreat. I surveyed 100+ Soldiers, and the interpretation of the survey pointed me to a Soldier who I found to be at risk.   This is not a Strong Bonds curriculum, but I did take the opportunity to use it to help our other Chaplains with their recent deployed Soldiers. 

Having been a student of the RLM system for the past ten years, I use it with my  counseling with Soldiers and with spouses, multi-generational counseling, leadership development, conflict management, communication, career management, assisting my leadership in position placement of Troopers based upon their natural abilities and skills and most of all, decision making.  

These are a few of the stories where RLM has allowed me to understand my Soldiers at a unit level expanding my role as a U.S. Army Chaplain. The greatest stories are of 1-9 CAV Troopers who have been impacted with their own awareness of themselves to alter their own attitude and belief in their decision-making process and communication skills with one another and their families from E-1 to Commanders.   

Understanding the Soldiers is one issue, but implementing a preventive  systems is the challenge. This system of training must mitigate poor decision making and allow training in dealing with the stress of finances and broken relationships, which leads our Soldiers and Families to “drugs of choice” like shopping, food, work, substance abuse, speed, violence, and suicide.  These are the decisions that are splattered over our computer screens and power-point briefs with names of individuals that develop into statistics. These are the issues that are our greatest battles. Our greatest battles are not on the landscapes of war, but are within our Soldiers and Families. The battles are on the soil of Garrison life, the plateaus of our barracks and neighborhoods, and the plots of ground where our Veterans walk. 

In my own statistical research and along with RLM’s research, it is my belief  that today’s issues of finances and relationships plague the conflicts of our Soldiers and Families creating distress, which leads to choices of suicidal tendencies.    It is the choices made in distress that cause a Solider to choose relief of their pain (guilt, anger, fear, sadness, etc.) that creates circles of conflict within themselves only to find themselves the next morning in a place lower than they began hours before the poor choice took place and in many instances sitting in my office with much regret.  With some of our Soldiers of suicide, the poor choices are found out, and he or she soon realizes the disaster they are about to bring to themselves and their families; thus, suicide is their choice. I believe in my experience and research that the majority of decisions of poor choices, including suicide, are related to a Soldier’s attitude, beliefs and balance between one’s head and heart as they navigate through life.

Where do we go from here?   First, we must understand a Soldier’s attitude and beliefs, which are the greatest variables that determine the Soldier’s decisions.  RLM can precisely demonstrate a Soldier’s attitude and beliefs through their 3-Minute Survey. Secondly, our training must not be reactive to poor choices, but it must be preventive (responsive) to the Soldier’s attitude and beliefs in the context of relationships, health, and finances.  This training must take place within a systematic-continuous approach. This preventive training must be as important as continuous weapon qualification. Our training must not be about “choices”, i.e. Do a budget. Here is your diet plan. These are the four principles of marriage. Third, we must understand the whole picture of our Soldiers:  attitudes, beliefs, positions of stress and distress, fear, guilt, anger and their balance in life. It is the preventive measures that will allow us to mitigate. We must allow our preventive measures not only to discuss and dialogue suicide, but we must train our Soldiers about the issues which brings one to their distress points. As I said before, we will either mitigate choices or litigate choices.  Fourth, we must invest resources to new training that can have the greatest impact and return of investment on Soldiers and their Families.  

In conclusion, we must move from our discussion of the ‘why’ to the development of the ‘what’.  It can’t just be another program that is laid at the feet of leadership to check the box. The material must be preventive in the areas of health, money and relationships.  The material must be life-altering in the life of the Soldier to be able to reflect, respond and alter the thoughts which leads to new decisions and judgments. The environment of learning must be experienced rather than didactic.  We must not believe that just any new material taught in another class is the answer. As one voice in the Army, I am committed to Soldiers and Families in assisting them with real-life management skills in the areas of faith, money, relationship and health.  We must be wholistic in our approaches to the decisions of life.      

CH (CPT) Robert Cook, U.S. Army Chaplain 

1CD, 4BCT, 1-9 CAV

615-305-6157 (personal)

254-449-2563 (government)