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Minnesota National Guard
Mental Wellness a top priority for Minnesota Guard's Aviation Brigade

"Life is full of kinks," explained Chaplain (1st Lt) Daryl Thul "And when you have kinks it's hard to keep going on"

Soldiers with the 34th Combat Aviation Brigade attended classes during annual training focused on stress management and how to utilize the tools of the military

As a pro-active approach, Thul created a course on how to understand stress called "A Framework for Understanding Basic Soldier Care"

"We shifted away from an "˜anti-suicide' to a more proactive "˜mental wellness' model a year ago and I think it is paying off in helping our Soldiers get help earlier," said Thul

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"Everyone, Soldier or not, has issues," said Thul "Anything our Soldiers are dealing with affects their service so we don't just care about them two days per month or only while deployed"

The Minnesota Army National Guard has coordinated services through many agencies to help leaders take care of Soldiers

"It is a priority, we treat all indications of possible suicide or personal harm with the highest priority," said Lt. Col. Shawn Manke, 2-147th Assault Helicopter Battalion commander "We are training Soldier to know where to get help and how to get help as well as leaders on how to offer assistance"

The thrust of the training involved helping Soldiers indentify what emotional states of being mean and at what levels of stress their problems need to be communicated Thul gave personal examples of how his stress affected his military career when he was an enlisted Soldier In the example, he explained how bad life decisions had led to adverse affects on what he was doing and how it led to his leaving the service

Soldiers were asked to share their personal stories of emotional times with others in the class This gave them a chance to relate to each other how they deal with their emotions

The class ended with a live demonstration, using a scene from the movie "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" in which King Arthur confronts the Black Knight and must duel him to pass The skit was used to illustrate the concept of stress management

While the US Army has recently begun implementing resiliency training as mandatory requirement, Thul's class gives a more personalized approach to dealing with balancing the life of the Citizen-Soldier

By Sgt Nicholas Olson
34th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs
27 June, 2011

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