Mental agility was at the fore of the week-long Special Operations Mental Agility (SOMA) course, recently delivered by a Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM) team.

Delivered by the CANSOFCOM Senior Manager Human Performance Research and Development Paige Mattie and Canadian Special Operations Regiment soldier Sergeant Tim Wedesweiler at Holsworthy Barracks, Sydney, it was designed to educate on performance-enhancing skills and mental health awareness.

“I think most of the time when our members come into the training, they see the term ‘mental agility’ – which itself is not well defined – and they’re not sure what to expect,” Dr Mattie said.

“They come away, however, with an appreciation for the skills they already use but didn’t know how to define or describe.

“They also gain an appreciation that the challenges they’ve experienced by virtue of their service aren’t unique – they’re experienced by many members of the community.

“From the feedback we’ve been given since the program started in 2017, we know it provides a common terminology which makes it easier for members to talk about performance and stress, as well as decreasing the stigma around things that people might not talk about frequently.”

“This is the first time we’ve run the training in Australia and it went really well."

The SOMA program is one part of Special Operations Command’s continuing quest to ensure world’s best practice through enhanced individual and team performance, Special Operations Training and Education Centre human performance manager Warrant Officer Class Two B said.

“We had psychologists and a range of other human performance optimisation personnel from across the Australian Defence Force attend. Special Operations Command, in particular, is looking at taking the best pieces of the program and reproducing a similar package in an Australian context,” he said.

“The aim is to give us a well-rounded human performance optimisation package – of the four Special Operations Command human performance optimisation pillars, we’ve covered off on the physical, technological and social aspects in our other courses and activities. This course will help the psychological area gel well with them.

“Although SOMA was designed for special operations personnel, it has applicability to all elements of the Australian Defence Force. It will just need to be applied in different ways across different commands according to their context, but we all react to the same stimulus and respond in similar ways so there is definitely opportunity.”

The program is relevant and impactful for its audience because of its “operator DNA”, according to Dr Mattie, who led the development of this training for CANSOFCOM.

“This is the first time we’ve run the training in Australia and it went really well,” she said.

“We had an outstanding audience and it’s been interesting for us to have such a diverse mix of special operations forces and other Army and the wider ADF personnel in the audience.”