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The Army’s Newest Drill: Building Mental and Emotional Resilience

Master Sgt. Jennifer Loredo never thought that an improvised explosive device, or IED, on the side of a road in Afghanistan would forever alter her life. But when she and her husband Eddie were deployed at the same time two years ago, things went terribly wrong on one of his patrols.

“Even when I was on the plane headed to the hospital, I just didn’t think that when I got there he wouldn’t be alive,” Loredo said. “I thought that he would be the one who was running the 10-miler with a prosthetic leg.”

That didn’t happen. The blood left Eddie’s leg too quickly, and Jennifer was faced with coming to terms with losing him.

It was around that time that Loredo learned — or more precisely, was deliberately taught — to find the good in the world. The Army’s new Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program trained her to count blessings, to ask for support when necessary and to accept that it’s okay to show emotion sometimes.

The program — the largest of its kind in the Army’s history — was launched in 2009 with the intent of boosting the mental toughness of every man and woman in uniform. By teaching soldiers how to better communicate with loved ones, become more aware of their emotions and change the way they cope with emotional stress, Army officials hope to reverse the number of troops suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and, all too often, suicide.

Loredo is a believer. In fact, she’s now a master trainer for the program for the entire 18th Airborne Corps.

“For somebody like myself – and there are thousands of families that have experienced loss like I have — it’s easy to focus on the negative parts of your life,” she said. “Nobody’s suggesting that every single time something happens you have this methodical way of dealing with it. But when you do have the opportunity to identify your emotions and reactions and consequences and thought patterns and all of those things, that’s when it would benefit you.”

Stay tuned to the NewsHour in the days ahead for Health Correspondent Betty Ann Bowser’s full report on the new program — and the controversy that surrounds it.