As they near the midpoint of Selected Restricted Availability (SRA), USS McFaul (DDG 74) Sailors are still benefitting from an innovative idea - a “Resiliency Fair” they proactively held in December to prepare the crew for what lies ahead.
The McFaul leadership conducted the resiliency fair in coordination with retired Navy captain, Dr. John Cordle, principal advisor for Human Factors and Human System Integration at Naval Surface Force Atlantic, and the Norfolk Fleet and Family Service Center. In compliance with COVID-safe practices, the onboard training was held via televised broadcast. The seminar aimed to provide training on a broad range of mental health and inter-personal issues. Topics and discussions included suicide awareness and prevention, stress management, and mutual respect in the workplace.
“Building resiliency takes time, commitment, and constant attention,” said Cmdr. Bobby J. Rowden, the ship’s commanding officer. “We knew a single day of training wouldn’t solve everything, but the fair, as part of a series of efforts to build toughness and keep focus on the Sailors, went a long way in setting the right tone for our seven month maintenance period.”
During the maintenance phase, ship leaders tend to see an uptick in cases of depression, alcohol-related incidents, and new stressors at work that don’t exist while out to sea. Adding a COVID pandemic to a statistically-troubled environment, it was an easy decision for Rowden to make resiliency training the number one priority, along with providing supportive resources.
The training provided a roadmap and offered support to the crew, ensuring that they have the resources available to continue to complete the mission even during trying times. Fostering the correct support network and resources for the ship’s crew is mission essential to being able to stay in the fight, and McFaul is committed to the health of its Sailors and their families.
"It is important that we take the time during this maintenance availability to focus on ‘people maintenance’ and upkeep as well as the material maintenance of the ship itself,” said Command Master Chief Jason Kutsch. “Even a well-maintained ship will not sail without a resilient crew."
Cordle was pleased to see that the Sailor filming the event, IC3 (SW) Garron Tolley, had actually downloaded the “Mental Health Resource Roadmap” to his phone for easy access. While hard to quantify after one training session and just three months, McFaul continues to see low reporting numbers for mental health illness and alcohol-related incidents.
Building on the McFaul’s success, USS Wasp (LHD 1) completed a Resiliency Fair in the early stages of their shipyard period. Based on the success of the first two events, Commander, Naval Surface Forces has directed all ships to conduct a resiliency fair prior to entering the maintenance phase.
“Between a grueling underway schedule and Covid-19 in 2020, we realized the crew and their families would need all the help they can get going into a long maintenance period,” said Wasp command Chaplain, Cmdr. Travis Long. “This was a great way to get the resources in front of the crew!”. He went on to add that to be effective, this needs to be just the beginning, a relationship that the ship and crew can build on as the maintenance period continues.
The Norfolk Fleet and Family Support Center played a large role in supporting the event, and is working to provide additional support as other ships sign up. “We are there to support the ships and families,” said Annette Ladler, the FFSC Deployment Coordinator, “We can provide training on all these topics in person, on the ship, in the shipyards, and in the Sailor’s homes, so that they can attend with their families via Microsoft Teams video connections.” For more information contact SURFLANT Culture of Excellence Coordinator or visit the Fleet and Family Support Center website at www.cnic.navy.mil.