A new program designed to help soldiers deal with stress is an important addition to military training.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey announced the program last week as a means of helping soldiers cope with repeated wartime deployments which he called "the treadmill we've been on for eight years," and which will continue "for some time to come."
The Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program will begin Oct. 1 as part of basic training and will continue through other levels of Army education for officers and enlisted troops.
"This is something that will serve the soldiers in whatever environment they are in — at war, at home, and frankly in their personal lives," he said.
The intent is to give soldiers skills to fight stress from combat experiences and other hardships that go with the job. This effort was prompted in part by the growing rate of soldier suicides, which reached 140 last year.
Soldiers face unimaginable difficulties and challenges in combat that tax their mental and emotional resources. Repeated deployments that separate them from their loved ones can only exacerbate the problem.
Providing coping strategies to enhance soldiers' mental and emotional health is an excellent idea whose time has come.
Gen. Casey said the Army's services for building mental fitness were "heavily weighted on providing assistance and treatment after we identified the problem, and ... were a little light on the preventive side, giving soldiers skills up front so they avoid having problems to begin with."
As Gen. Casey's vice chief, Gen. Peter Chiarelli, told a congressional hearing, the program "is designed to raise mental fitness up to the same level of attention as we have historically given to physical health and fitness."
This should be a very positive addition to military training.