USSOCOM hosts 1st SOF Truth conference focusing on force health

By: Mike Bottoms - 12/21/2023

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U.S. Army Lt. Col. Glen Dowling and his wife Kelli give a testimonial on how the health support system helped them prepare for retirement during the “Focus on the First Truth” forum dealing with force health at Joint Special Operations University, MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, Dec. 14, 2023. This quarter’s 1st SOF Truth Conference highlighted humans over hardware and focused on force health with an emphasis on brain health and resiliency to empower leaders with access to the resources available for the command’s people. Photo by Michael Bottoms.​

U.S. Army Gen. Bryan P. Fenton, commander, U.S. Special Operations Command and Command Sgt. Maj. Shane Shorter hosted the fourth of a series of virtual forums focused on people , at Joint Special Operations University, MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, Dec. 14, 2023. This forum dealt with force health. ​

​​This quarter’s 1st SOF Truth Conference focused on force health with an emphasis on brain health and resiliency to empower leaders with access to the resources available for the command’s people.

The series of quarterly events are a component to the USSOCOM Preservation of the Force and Family’s Integrated Performance Campaign. The purpose of the events is to develop a mutual understanding across senior leadership and explore a variety of approaches to address the threat of self-harm to the people in the formation . And the intent is to generate follow on actions for the leaders to implement at the echelons below .

To open the discussion, Fenton stressed the forum is for O6 and above command teams from across the entire SOF enterprise to attain the tools to take care of their teams at the lowest levels. Discussions centered around understanding brain health, being aware of physiological recovery programs available, and knowing how to access integrated care services. Fenton and Shorter emphasized the commitment to the health and wellness of the force.

“This is an opportunity for our formation to be introduced to all the organizations we have as resources to help servicemembers – our number one priority; our people,” Fenton said.

This panel’s guests were retired Army Lt. Gen. Frank Kearney, former deputy commander USSOCOM, retired Navy SEAL Vice Adm. Robert Harward and retired Navy SEAL Rear Adm. Kerry Metz. Operation Anaconda was led by the 10th Mountain Division and supported by more than 400 U.S. and foreign special operations personnel. This panel discussed the initial planning, execution, and challenges of the operation.

“The O6 commands are where the rubber meets the road,” said Shorter. “The O6 commanders deal directly with the individual person, they are there to take care of their people, we do not see that at the headquarters. This virtual conference is for you to help you with your people.”

Guest speakers illuminated the data on performance and recovery programs aimed at special operations forces such as cognitive enhancement, resiliency, rehabilitation, and traumatic brain injury. As SOCOM is constantly looking to transform with emerging tech and scientific data, how doctors evaluate the performance and treat the recovery of our operators lends to our culture of continuous improvement.

Briefers from National Intrepid Center of Excellence, 7 East, Special Operator Performance and Recovery, Post-Deployment Rehabilitation Evaluation Program, Homebase, and a Lead Nurse Case Manager all explained their programs and how they help service members. The forum also hosted a panel discussion entitled Framing Warfighter Brain Health: what is it, effects, symptoms, types of conditions. Additionally, testimonials from four different people on how certain programs help them recover physically, mentally and spiritually.

Finally, Brian Johnson founder and CEO of Heroic Public Benefit Corporation gave a briefing on how his company Heroic uses ancient philosophers’ wisdom to empower and strengthen the modern mind.

“If people are more important than hardware, the ultimate war is internal, [the mind] not external, and we win that war by learning how to flourish by putting our virtues in action,” said Johnson. “Then we must train and measure that.”

Note: All the presentations given that day are available through USSOCOM’s CAC-enabled internal portal and available for individual or unit training purposes.





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