Army’s Spiritual Misfits must complete Spiritual Fitness training

Army's Mandatory Spiritual Fitness Training Motivational

The screen capture above is dated 13 February 2011.

Compare to last month’s quote from the people behind this test:

[The upper leadership behind the Soldier Fitness Tracker] says the training module only offers ideas for developing one’s spiritual side. It is not mandatory and has no effect on one’s career.13 January 2011. [Source: NPR]

Keep in mind, even if this training was optional (which it decidedly does not appear to be), the offensive test itself is not. After you complete the test, you are ‘treated’ to an informative results screen that says this:

You may lack a sense of purpose...

If the above statement was true, the training should be mandatory! Additionally, if the goal of this test is to reduce PTSD and suicide rates, then it should be mandatory. Also, it should be explicitly inclusive of the thousands of foxhole atheists in the army, or the countless number of soldiers who don’t think that religion has any place in judging how ‘fit’ or ‘resilient’ a person is.

If you were to scrap all the theological / meta-physical / quasi-religious / explicitly religious verbage from the spiritual fitness remedial training, you wouldn’t be left with much substance. Whatever scraps are leftover could easily fit into the reality-based sections: Emotional, Social, Family.

Preventing suicide, and dealing with PTSD are very serious and noble goals. That is exactly why this test and training need to strive to do this right. As it stands, the Spirituality component to the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program can and does lead to very dangerous situations for our nation’s warriors. Do you remember the soldiers who were forced to see their Chaplain because they failed this test? The Chaplains told the soldiers that it was an opportunity to get ‘born again’.

This is more than a hypothetical slippery slope. This is a very real avalanche, and this program is still in its infancy! Imagine what would happen if this was legitimized with years of mandated use, becoming an irreparable establishment of the status quo. How many more similar situations would arise?

Hopefully in the end, they will do more than just a lipstick on a pig treatment of slight alterations.  Let’s all hope this thing gets fixed, in a real and meaningful way.

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About Justin Griffith
  • Anonymous

    “You may question your beliefs, values and principles.” Why would they say it like that’s a bad thing? The opposite of that, by their logic, is to say “Congratulations! You never question your beliefs, values or principles! You just believe whatever was shoved down your throat as a child!” Guess we know what’s important…

  • Ben Hart

    I believe every member of the military takes an oath to uphold the Constitution. What part of seperation of church and state do these officers not understand.

  • Balstrome

    Okay, sure I am not in the army, but if I was and they came at me with this test, I would lie my ass off. When I was in the army, that is what we used to do, find the church with the cutest girls and join that, or one that allowed you to sleep for a hour or two in the back benches.

    I suppose the major problem for me would be the whole training to kill humans thing. So talking to gods would really be a small thing for me.

    • Justin Griffith

      First of all, it is not a trifling thing for soldiers to kill humans… that’s something that all soldiers grapple with. It’s not like we don’t consider that at all. In fact that directly compounds the problem, that when less religious or non-religious soldiers need some help dealing with this, the last thing they want to hear is ‘get right with god, or else you are going to kill yourself’.

      The major problems are many:
      1) there is nothing wrong with being an atheist. (why are people trivializing this?)
      2) the answers for this test are directly funding more ‘spiritual fitness’ events (perhaps the only reason one should lie on this test… and they should bomb the other portions, though I think the right answer is much easier and more ethical: get rid of the spiritual fitness concept.)
      3) the constitution is what soldiers pledge to uphold and defend… it is the document that defines our country. Article VI, para 3 of the main body… Also, establishment clause of first amendment. (why are people trivializing this?)
      ***4) soldiers are already being forced to see chaplains for failing this test, “so they don’t commit suicide on my watch”. Please read this infuriating account in its entirety. It will likely explain the situation in a new light:

      —-
      Before I tell you, Mr. Weinstein and the MRFF of my total outrage at the U.S. Army for grading me as a “Spiritual Fitness failure”, I will tell you a few things about myself. My name is (name withheld) and I am an enlisted soldier with the rank of (rank withheld) in the United States Army stationed at Ft. (military installation withheld). I am in my early-to-mid twenties. I have been deployed downrange into Iraq and Afghanistan 6 times. I will deploy again for my 7th time very soon; to Afghanistan and more combat. All of my deployments have been very heavy combat assignments. I have been wounded 4 times including traumatic brain injury. I have earned the Combat Action Badge, the Bronze Star and multiple Purple Hearts. I have fought in hand-to hand- combat and killed and wounded more than a few “enemy combatants.”

      M[y] religion? I was born a Methodist and guess I still am one. I’m not very religious but consider myself to be a Christian. I don’t go to chapel services that often although I go every now and then. I can’t stand the chaplains as most of them are trying to always get me and my friends to “commit to Christ” and be far more religious as well as they try to get more and more soldiers to get more and more soldiers to be the same type of “committed Christian”. I cannot count the number of times that these chaplains and my own chain of command has described this war we fight as a religious one against the Muslims and their “false, evil and violent” religion. I am a Christian and therefore neither an agnostic nor an atheist though many of my fellow soldiers are such. Now to the point. I, and everyone else who is enlisted in my company, was ORDERED by my Battalion Commander to take the GAT’s Spiritual Fitness Test not very long ago. Let me make this CLEAR, we were all ORDERD to take it.

      After we did, our unit’s First Sgt. individually asked us all how we did on the test. There was NO “anonymity” at all. None of us were ever told that we did NOT have to take this Spiritual Fitness Test nor that we did NOT have to tell our FIrst Sgt. what our results were. A bunch of us “failed” the SFT and when we told that to our First Sgt., per his disclosure order, he further ordered us to make immediate appointments with the chaplains so that we would not “kill ourselves on his watch”. None of us wanted to do it but we were scared. None of us wanted to get in the shits with our First Sgt. who can and will make life miserable for anyone who might have said no to him.

      They keep saying that this is all to stop us soldiers from killing ourselves but THIS degrading SFT “failure” only makes it worse. Two of my battle buddies who I KNOW are thinking of ending it all were a million times worse off after failing this SFT and being called a “spiritual failure” and then ordered to go see the chaplains. I felt like a total coward for not standing up to my First Sgt. but I did what he told me to do. I was scared to tell him no.

      So I went to see the chaplain. When this chaplain told me that I failed the SFT because it was “Jesus’ way of personally knocking on my door as an invitation for me to come to Him as a born again ‘REAL’ Christian” so that I could be saved and not burn forever in Hell for rejecting him, I thought of 3 things. First, I thought of the fact that I was already born a Christian and did not need to be born again. Second, I thought of my battle buddy (name and rank withheld) who took a bullet for me in his face during the Battle of (name of Iraqi battle withheld) and that he was the same kind of Christian as me and this chaplain is telling me that my battle buddy (name and rank withheld) is burning in hell for all time. Third, I thought how I wanted to blow that fucking chaplain’s head right off.

      Thank you, Mr. Weinstein and MRFF for listening and standing up. A bunch of us saw you on MSNBC. We also read about the enlisted guy at Ft. Bragg. Please tell Sgt. Griffith at Fort Bragg that he speaks for many of us who can’t handle the consequences if we spoke out. We have all read the letter you sent to tell the Army to stop this Spiritual Fitness Test. It cheered us up alot because that making us take that test is WRONG and using it to send us to the chaplains against our will is also WRONG. Please tell your lawyers at that big law firm company not to forget about those of us who want to speak up and thank them all but cannot. (Name, rank, combat MOS, military unit, military installation withheld)

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