Researchers help U.S. Army evaluate comprehensive fitness program

Mitch Herian and Dina Krasikova are members of the CBA research team working with the U.S. Army on the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness evaluations.
Mitch Herian and Dina Krasikova are members of the CBA research team working with the U.S. Army on the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness evaluations.

UNL College of Business Administration researchers have partnered with the U.S. Army through TKC Global to evaluate new strategies to increase the overall health of members of the Army through a program called Comprehensive Soldier Fitness.

Comprehensive Soldier Fitness is a long-term, enduring initiative that broadens the assessment and training of every member of the Army beyond the standard physical and technical abilities. Psychological strength must be trained, practiced and refined much like physical strength.

CBA researchers involved in evaluating the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program include Peter Harms, assistant professor of management; Dina Krasikova, post-doctoral research associate and Mitch Herian, a research analyst.

Major Paul Lester, who received his Ph.D. from CBA, was instrumental in merging the two areas.

“For the first time in the history of the Army, the senior leadership wanted to place an equal emphasis on psychological health as it places on physical health,” Lester said. “The point of psychological fitness is to develop health and resilience across the broader army community -- that includes soldiers, their family members and the army civilian work force. We’re talking in excess of two million people.

"CBA has come up with a program evaluation initiative that has produced three technical reports outlining the program’s effectiveness, and it appears based on the analysis that the program is working.”

Lester believes CBA’s reputation for excellence in research and the great value it provides has benefited all involved.

Krasikova emphasized that offsetting the negative effects of post-traumatic stress disorder is a major goal of the evaluation process.

“We have a number of areas that evaluate psychological fitness in terms of the ability to regulate emotions effectively,” Krasikova said. “That includes things such as learning how to develop strong ties with friends and family, and having a purposeful life. It all helps soldiers avoid health problems such as drug abuse, alcohol abuse, PTSD, depression and anxiety. It also helps the Army keep and retain soldiers.”

The research has shown that people who are more emotionally healthy are more likely to get promoted and receive awards, which in turn helps with retention.

“These are all things that you would expect to show up, but until you do the data analysis and find the statistical relationships you don’t know for sure,” Herian said. “We’ve been able to validate that people that are more emotionally fit have better outcomes.”

The CBA research team is currently working on its fourth technical report, and presented its findings at the Academy of Management meeting in Boston, Mass., last summer.

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