Army strong: Controversial new program to build psychological strength in troops

“We are putting as much stress on a soldier in the first six years in the United States Army” as many 80-year-old civilians have experienced in an entire lifetime, he said.

In 2008, Cornum said, the Army asked the University of Pennsylvania to help design something to combat negative behaviors…

Penn’s Positive Psychology Center and its director, Martin E.P. Seligman, are proponents of the idea of positive psychology, where attention is focused on positive aspects of life.

Seligman and his colleagues had already designed resilience programs for middle schools, high schools and college to prevent anxiety and depression, and they found that it was not that hard to adjust the training for soldiers.

“A lot of the material was directly relevant,” Seligman said. “The struggles of a soldier are relational — families, getting along with others. A very small part of life is going into battle.”

“I was worried that people would say [it was] ‘girlie psychobabble,’ ” he said. Instead, about half the soldiers who rated the program “said it was the best course they ever had in the Army.”