U.S. Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR) excels at supporting its operators and their families. By tactfully implementing the Preservation of the Force and Family (POTFF) program, the command is creating a culture of individuals that are stronger mentally, physically, socially, and spiritually.
According to an extensive article, published by the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service, the POTFF program is so effective and successful because of its unique ability to operate completely in-house. Patients in need can be seen right away. The staff that take care of these operators understand the stress, strain, and physical beating these operators go through in order to do their job. By having an intimate understanding of their patients and their backgrounds, they are able to provide effective treatment to operators, helping them stay at the top of their game, both physically and mentally.
Dr. Roger Schmidt, a psychologist assigned to SOCEUR’s POTFF program explained, “Being embedded in SOCEUR allows me to be uniquely positioned when and where I’m needed most. When the stress becomes a strain when people feel overwhelmed but aren’t willing to talk to their chain of command about it, and when functioning is starting to deteriorate personally and professionally.”
Supporting the successes of the program, a current patient at SOCEUR attested, “If it weren’t for the POTFF program I wouldn’t be having the conversations I am right now. I’ve needed to have these conversations for years but resisted. If it wasn’t for POTTF, I’d probably continue holding on to it until after retirement.”
There are four sub-programs, within the POTFF program: The Psychological Performance Program (PPP), the Human Performance Program (HPP), the Social Performance Program (SoPP), and the Spiritual Performance Program (SPP).
Psychological Performance Program
The PPP is a unique program. Psychological performance admittedly is an aspect of health that operators are sometimes hesitant to open up about. The POTFF program is trying to break down this barrier and make it known that being treated on a psychological level is just as important and acceptable as being treated for any physical injury.
For this reason, Dr. Schmidt said, “I am embedded in SOCEUR and not connected to the behavioral health clinic.”
SOCEUR wants operators to feel comfortable expressing their stresses, concerns, and feelings. This ideally will create a more functional, healthy operator, and in turn will allow for a better home life and happier family.
Dr. Schmidt acknowledged that “There are unique demand characteristics in Special Operations. While as a group these folks seem to have another gear to be able to manage the stress, the reality is that everyone has vulnerabilities and a threshold to which performance declines.”
Human Performance Program
The HPP is designed to effectively treat, maintain, and improve the physical health of operators. This is accomplished by addressing three main aspects: nutrition, physical therapy, and strength and conditioning.
By having a physical therapist, psychologist, and nurse case manager on hand, members are able to receive the highest quality of care and stay in the fight.
Social Performance Program
The SoPP is a special program designed to support families and act as a tool to promote healthy relationships between SOCEUR members and their families. There are many family support programs within the military. The SoPP takes it a step further and has created a unique approach to address the common struggles and challenges that Special Operations families face.
Jess Donnelly, SOCEUR’s family readiness coordinator, explained: “Venture walks, marriage retreats, and other fun and informative events help maintain a family environment in the unit. COVID-19 has limited that family feel and I believe people are missing the connection. I hope that we can be back together as a SOCEUR family soon.”
Spiritual Performance Program
The SPP’s purpose is to help operators and their families develop, understand, and interpret their lives by discussing personal events, beliefs, relationships, and their overall cognizance of daily life. Led by chaplains, these programs help individuals develop better relationships, gain perspective, and provide a deeper meaning of one’s purpose in life.
The SOCEUR Chaplain, Dan Rice, said, “For me the POTFF program means teamwork. I see it as a great unifier for resources. We can do a lot in the spiritual domain, but I think POTFF does a good job bringing in the mind, body, family, and spirit together so we all work together to help our service members.”
Chaplain Rice explained that they have the right people that make up the perfect team: “I might be talking to a couple about their spiritual life and I realize, hey they could use the help of a psychologist. Well next door to me is our POTFF psychologist, I can actually walk them over there and say, ‘hey Roger, here’s someone who could use help from you.’ With the continuity of care, we’re one team taking care of our team.”
While the current COVID-19 situation has certainly changed the way POTFF does business, they are still making their rounds and ensuring that members and their families are taken care of. By taking advantage of phone calls and online meeting applications, the POTFF professionals are able to keep a healthy pulse on their members. They intend to pick up right where they left off, once it is safe to do so.