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Home > UNS > 141027-01



Physical, psychological strength focus of Special Forces Group Force Preservation Directorate

by Capt. Thomas Cieslak
7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Public Affairs

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (USASOC News Service, Oct. 27, 2014) - A comprehensive program at the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) pairs Special Forces soldiers with professional trainers, psychologists and physical therapists to improve their performance on the battlefield and strengthen their resiliency.

The Force Preservation Directorate at the 7th SFG (A) is a program unique among others in the U.S. Army Special Operations Command because it takes a holistic approach to improving the warfighter’s performance in combat and in their recovery from injuries sustained while training or on the battlefield.

“The FPD at 7th Group ensures we maintain our extraordinary level of preparedness. Seventh Group Soldiers group are deploying constantly and repeatedly to our AOR [Area of Responsibility] in Central and South America as well as Afghanistan,” said Col. Robert Kirila, the group’s deputy commander. “Traditionally, our ODA’s [Operational Detachment Alphas] train constantly to maintain their physical and technical competencies. The inclusion of psychological resiliency training complements other operator training efforts. As such, the FPD has become a critical component of our readiness strategy to prepare our operators' minds and bodies for the complex missions they conduct.”

“A Special Forces soldier is trained to put himself in harm’s way for the American way of life. That is to say, he has accepted the call to go into some of the most volatile places on the planet and give of himself mentally, physically and spiritually. He has decided to put his total being on the line for our country’s defense,” said Mike Sanders, the human performance coordinator for the 7th SFG (A).

“In order to survive such environments, the SF [Special Forces] soldier must start with training ... they must go into combat and the most important tool they have is themselves,” he continued.

Sanders leads the Tactical Human Optimization Rapid Rehabilitation and Reconditioning program. Known commonly as THOR3, the program is an integral component of 7th SFG (A)’s Force Preservation Directorate.

The FPD harmonizes efforts of THOR3 athletic trainers, medical professionals, psychologists and nurse case managers into a holistic approach towards improving the warfighter’s physical and mental performance. It’s main focus lies specifically on the recovery and rehabilitation of wounded warriors within the group, returning them to the battlefield fully able to perform their duties or helping them transition from Special Forces and equipping them with the tools needed to succeed outside the Army.

“The FPD is unique to 7th Group and is an undertaking by leadership to bring together all the different facets of soldier health and recovery under one roof,” said Sanders. “Complete integration is accomplished by frequent communication, meetings and close work proximity of each individual section. This integration enables a more robust program for wounded warrior care.”

That one roof Sanders speaks about is the group’s Combat Readiness Training Facility. The facility spans nearly 44,000 square feet and contains rooms for strength and cardiovascular training. A physical therapy clinic is contained inside as well as Sanders’ THOR3 training area. Behind the CRTF lies athletic turf used by the Special Forces soldiers for mobility drills.

“No other THOR3 program is set up where all members of the THOR3 staff are housed in the same area. Our program was also the first to employ an athletic trainer to act as a bridge between the latter half of rehabilitation and engagement in THOR3 strength and conditioning program,” said Capt. Shay Rogers, the group’s physical therapist. “These aspects allow our service members to move fluidly within the program to suit their needs – whether injured on the battlefield or in training or progressing towards a physical conditioning goal.”

Rogers leads a team that includes other physical therapists and medical professionals. It is common to see her and her team interacting with soldiers as they exercise, providing them guidance while evaluating their progress and recovery.

“Referrals require little effort, all patients have direct access. This means they may access the PT [physical therapy] clinic without a referral. We are otherwise a phone call away,” said Rogers about the accessibility of her team to soldiers of the group. “Our service members need only walk in and may be seen the day of injury.”

“Physical performance and resilience and well-being are integral to mental health and personal achievement,” said Rogers about the role her program plays in assisting soldiers to achieve their goals. “By providing the means to overcome injury, to meet physical training goals, the physical therapy and training staff provide the means to operate again.”

Another key component of the FPD is the Psychological Performance Program, led by Maj. Isaac Lopez, the 7th SFG (A) psychologist. The program provides soldiers with skills necessary to manage difficult situations before the stress impacts their health, family and career. Lopez leads a team of mental health care providers who seek to help soldiers find balance in their physical, mental and spiritual well-being while improving their family and peer relationships.

“When individuals think of a wounded warrior, they often imagine an individual with a physical injury. However, research has shown that the majority of individuals that have a physical injury also suffer emotional injuries,” said Lopez. “The P3 program works with physical therapy and THOR3 in identifying and concurrently treating emotional injuries in individuals. The P3 has experienced providers that can assess an individual’s current level of emotional and behavioral functioning and develop an individualized, research based treatment plan to assist that individual in fulfilling their goals.”

“The FPD is responsible for many 7th Group soldiers returning to the battlefield. They can take an SF soldier wounded in training or combat and condition them, mentally and physically back to their full capability,” said Col. Christopher Riga, the group’s commander. “The program makes the group a more lethal force and ready to execute our missions in South America and Afghanistan.