Total Force Fitness and Cooperative Extension: Social Fitness

Friday Field Notes banner image: Featuring engaging stories from practitioners about how partnerships with Cooperative Extension help build Community Capacity to support military service men and women and their families.

In previous Friday Field Notes, we have described the Total Force Fitness (TFF) model and introduced the eight domains included in the model. Now, we will examine how cooperative extension can help support TFF in each of these domains.

Memorial Day is upon us this weekend and it is a time in which service members, veterans, and their families may need extra social support. In today’s Friday Field Notes, we will examine the importance of social fitness and ways to leverage cooperative extension to improve social fitness.

social TFF

What is Social Fitness?

Social fitness involves building and maintaining relationships with family and friends, as well as other social supports (e.g., co-workers, members of religious affiliations). For service members and their families, healthy social connections can improve force readiness and facilitate resilience.

According to LTC Wayne Jonas and colleagues, social fitness is multidimensional and includes friends and family, recreation, religion, and hobbies, as well as superiors and peers. Cohesion is an important construct within social fitness, and minimal attention has been paid to the importance of family cohesion. These experts argue that the importance of family fitness and cohesion cannot be underestimated with regard to total force fitness.

Can we measure social cohesion easily and in a way that can track whether a family has adequate support? This has been pointed out as an area of great importance as well as a challenge to total force fitness. Losada and others have illustrated that assessing personal connectivity of a team is highly correlated with its performance. Unit and family cohesion are both likely to influence the individual service member with regard to unit productivity and performance. Thus, social and family fitness are essential to total force fitness and impact performance from such disparate areas as the rate of wound healing to overall unit functioning.

Cooperative Extension and Social Fitness

The cooperative extension system provides opportunities for service members and their families to build social connections in their communities. Two examples of these opportunities are below.

4-H Military Partnerships. Using a positive youth development framework, 4-H Military Partnerships provide military connected children and youth opportunities to build relationships with positive mentors and each other. To find an upcoming camp for military connected youth, check out the 4-H Military Partnerships website.

Relationship Education. Cooperative extension provides classes for couples who want to learn better relationship skills and improve their overall relationship satisfaction. An example of one of these programs is ELEVATE , a one day training for couples to learn relationship skills such as conflict management, communication, and stress management skills.

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