A lot is written about resilience these days, but how do we actually develop it in our soldiers? The short article below by Emily Chapman gives an overview of Exercise Battle Back, an adventurous training activity conducted by both serving and ex-serving personnel. The use of evidence based analysis, rather than ‘gut feel’, to determine the usefulness of the activity makes for interesting reading. Note that there is a link to the full post-activity evaluation report at the end of the article.
Exercise BATTLE BACK (EX BB) was a multi-disciplinary adventurous training expedition delivered collaboratively by ex-service organisation Solider On and Adventurous Training Wing, over the period 20-29 November 2017. Participants were serving and ex-serving members, with the majority of serving members drawn from 3 CSSB.
The purpose of EX BB was to develop character, social, psychological, cognitive and physical resilience in participants to enhance their coping skills and foster direction in life through setting a pathway for future commitment.
A qualitative evaluation based on semi-structured interviews and participant observation was undertaken to examine the effectiveness, impact, relevance and sustainability of EX BB. In order to examine the extent to which the program achieved its purpose, a framework of five Resilience Domains and 26 Resilience Components were drawn from COMD FORCOMD Directive 210/15 – FORCOMD Resilience Plan.
EX BB participants self-reported or were observed to have enhanced outcomes in the majority of Components as depicted in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Mapped and Analysed Resilience Components
Follow-up focus groups were conducted with 3 CSSB in May 2018 with participants and their Chain of Command (CoC). Participants’ CoCs reported observable and positive differences in participants including motivation, self-confidence, assertiveness and adoption of an effective mentality to approach friction and challenges. The need for a follow-up activity, either RESET or additional adventurous activities in order to re-visit and consolidate the outcomes of EX BB was identified during the focus groups. This finding reflects the benefits of participants conducting a follow-up activity to consolidate the learning outcomes of adventurous training.
Data collection was semi-structured interviews and participant observation. As a result, the outcomes are self-assessed or identified from an external source. The small sample size of the EX BB program does not enable generalisation of outcomes.
At the organisational level, EX BB contributes to enhancing Unit and Service outcomes because it enables participants to realise their potential and bring changed behaviours back into the workplace. EX BB develops individuals to integrate effectively within teams, appreciate diversity and diverse perspectives, and develop a broad range of resilience outcomes.
With investment there is potential for EX BB to be tailored to each Brigade based on command and geographical considerations and delivered as part of adventurous training support to the RESET Brigade.
Further Reading: The full Exercise BATTLE BACK: Adventurous Training in Recovery and Reintegration Final Evaluation Report can be found here.
About the Author: Emily Chapman is a Reserve Royal Australian Air Force Operations Officer. She was previously an Operations Analyst embedded within the Adaptive Warfare Branch, Headquarters 1st Division before returning to complete her PhD fulltime on civil-military interaction during disaster relief operations. Emily is co-leading the planning and preparation of the The Spirit Lives Expedition to traverse Antarctica in 2019.
 The psychological domain and components are as per COMD FORCOMD Directive 210/15 – FORCOMD Resilience Plan. No psychometric data was collected during the conduct of the evaluation.