What is “Military Strong?”

Beginning just after Armed Forces Day to Veterans Day (May 18 – Nov. 11), Lewis and Clark County organizations, businesses, schools, government offices, and many others are challenging each other to become Military Strong by taking five online courses on military culture and then referring fellow entities to do the same.

This is the second year for the challenge in the area.

Provided through the PsychArmor Institute’s Veteran-Ready Organization certification program, each free course is just 15 – 25 minutes and educates learners about the basics of military culture and how to talk to service members, veterans, and their families. Taking all five courses makes you Military Strong.

The goal of the challenge is to build the community’s awareness about the unique needs of service members, veterans, and their families while empowering everyone to be more supportive of those who serve. Military Strong also aims to prevent suicide among this population.

Course titles are as follows (about 90 minutes total):
• 15 Things Veterans Want You to Know
• Communication Skills with Veterans
• Helping Others Hold On
• How to Talk to Someone with a Disability
• S.A.V.E. (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education)

For an organization to receive the Military Strong recognition and Veteran-ready Organization certification, 50 percent of its staff must complete the training. You are also asked to recommend two new organizations to join the movement and can do this at any point in the challenge.

Once you finish the training, we will provide you with a Military Strong badge to place on your social media sites to promote that your organization is now Military Strong. Additionally, you will receive a window-cling for your location, among other incentives (listed below).

Who oversees the challenge?

The Military Strong Campaign is a collaboration of the Lewis and Clark Suicide Prevention Coalition, the local Mayor’s Challenge team, and the PsychArmor Institute to reduce suicides among service members, veterans, and their families. The Lewis and Clark Suicide Prevention Coalition and its facilitator oversee the program and will track team participation.

We want to make sure service members, veterans, and their families know about agencies like yours that are dedicated to making Lewis and Clark County more military friendly. We are working with Montana Joining Community Forces (J.C.F.) to increase awareness about the Military Strong certification among these groups.

How long is the training?

The training is made up of five modules, which are each about 15-25 minutes long. It will take about 90 minutes to complete the entire program. Participants can watch the curriculum in one sitting or split it up over several sessions.
Additionally, you can watch the modules as a group. The process involves pre-registering all participants and then using a sign-in sheet to track participation. Please email jhegstrom@lccountymt.gov to get the sign-in sheet and more details on this process.

How much do the courses cost?

As with all PsychArmor Institute courses, this certification program is entirely FREE.

What will my organization and staff receive once certified?

At the end of each month, any participating agency, business, or organization that achieves 50 percent or higher staff completion will receive:

• One ‘Military Strong’ badge window cling
• A ‘Military Strong’ badge sticker for each employee who completed the training
• A digital version of the badge will be provided for organizations to post to their website and social media pages. It will also be posted next to organizational entries in the Montana 211 website and the CONNECT Referral System if your organization meets the criteria for those platforms.
• A ‘Thank you’ via the Lewis & Clark Suicide Prevention Coalition Facebook page
• A letter of appreciation from Mayor Wilmot Collins
• A mention in a monthly Helena IR letter to the editor
• Inclusion on the LCsuicideprevention.org Military Strong page
• Certified participants will have their logos posted on PsychArmor’s national website
• The ability to refer two or more organizations and businesses to participate.

Additionally, service members, veterans, and their families will receive information regarding community organizations and businesses that have participated so they can frequent them if they wish to do so.

Montana Joining Community Forces (J.C.F.) will promote the organizations that have completed the Military Strong Challenge at its annual Christmas Dinner. The service members, veterans, and spouses attending the dinner will be encouraged to patronize the Military Strong businesses and organizations.

Who has completed the training so far?

Completed
1. AARP Montana
2. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Helena
3. Breathe, Let’s Start a Conversation
4. Career Training Institute (CTI)
5. Center for Mental Health
6. City of East Helena
7. Comprehensive Hearing Services
8. Family Promise of Greater Helena
9. G1 Office – Montana Army National Guard
10. Governor Steve Bullock’s Office
11. Headwaters Covenant Church
12. Helena College
13. Helena Family YMCA
14. Helena Motors
15. Intermountain
16. Job Service Helena
17. Lewis and Clark Library
18. Lewis and Clark Public Health
19. Mayor’s Challenge Peer to Peer Workgroup
20. Montana Army National Guard Fort Harrison Risk Reduction Office
21. Montana Independent Living Project
22. Montana Joining Community Forces
23. Montana Mental Health Ombudsman’s Office
24. Montana Radio Co.
25. Most Wanted Real Estate
26. Mountain Ranch House
27. National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) – Helena Board
28. Nature Conservancy
29. PureView Health Center
30. Rocky Mountain Development Council
31. United Way of the Lewis and Clark Area
32. Volunteers of America Northern Rockies
33. West Mont
34. Western Montana Mental Health Clinic
35. Westaff

In progress

  1. Carroll College
  2. Lewis and Clark County
  3. Opportunity Bank of Montana
  4. St. Peter’s Health – Population Health
  5. The Rocking Tree Farm
  6. Youth Connections

Why should my organization join the challenge?

Suicide is a community issue. When it comes to preventing suicide among service members, veterans, and their families, there is more involved than only calling a crisis line (1-800-273-8255, dial 1 for the Veteran Crisis Line).

For them and many others, prevention looks like understanding their needs and their culture, while increasing access to employment, housing, and food, as well as social connection, and community support.

By participating in just 90 minutes of training, you and your organization will help to close the military / civilian divide in Lewis and Clark County. You’ll also be equipped to be better friends, partners, employers, and neighbors to the veterans and service members who also call Lewis and Clark County home.

What should I do if my organization wants to participate in the challenge?

General Onboarding Process

1. Contact Jess Hegstrom, Lewis and Clark Public Health Suicide Prevention Coordinator, at jhegstrom@lccountymt.gov to receive an onboarding form.

We also ask that you provide us with the name of two fellow organizations that would benefit from this training. You can do this at any point while participating and are welcome to provide additional referrals.

2. After you send this information, you will receive a custom URL to access the PsychArmor website through a customized landing page.

3. We will provide you with a staff letter template to share that includes the custom URL. Please have all employees register with that team link.

4. Once they have registered, they will have access to a personal dashboard with the assigned courses, which they can watch on their own. If you would like to schedule a team viewing, please contact jhegstrom@lccountymt.gov to assist with setup.

5. If you accept the challenge, we recommend that you promote your participation via social media. Pre-made challenge acceptance posts will be provided.

How to complete the challenge

6. Once half of your employees have completed the training, we will email your designated point-of-contact to congratulate you. We will also provide you with more pre-made social media posts to celebrate your accomplishment.

7. At the end of each month, the Suicide Prevention Coalition will award each certified organization with a Military Strong window cling, individual stickers for employees, a thank you via Facebook, a letter of appreciation from Mayor Wilmot Collins and a letter to the editor of the Helena Independent Record, and inclusion on the coalition and PsychArmor websites.

What if members of my team are already registered on PsychArmor? Do they need to use the team link?

While already registered participants can access and participate in the separate courses, they must use the team link to have their coursework counted toward certification.
Existing PsychArmor learners can use their current username and password to join the group as previously earned credits will carry over. New learners can register directly from the team link.

To access your courses, please select “My Learning” from the top banner and select “My Dashboard.” The courses will be assigned to your Dashboard for completion. Once you complete the courses, your transcript will be updated.

Which course should we take first?

PsychArmor recommends taking the “15 Things Veterans Want You to Know” course first, as it educates learners about the importance of military cultural competency. The course outlines five questions to ask a Veteran, and the top 15 things Veterans want you to know about them.

What if I want to learn more?

Once you’ve completed the Military Strong Challenge, you are welcome to check out PsychArmor’s myriad courses. They’re all free and will build on what you’ve already learned about military culture.

If you are interested in becoming a “Montana veteran-friendly employer” (as a manager, supervisor, H.R. professional, or business owner), Montana Joining Community Forces is offering an in-depth program in partnership with the Military Strong Challenge.

The Veterans at Work Certificate developed for H.R. professionals, hiring managers, and front-line supervisors is a multifaceted program from the S.H.R.M. Foundation (Society for Human Resource Managers). In partnership with Montana S.H.R.M. State Council Member Ronda Wakefield, the certificate is being utilized by Montana Joining Community Forces Career Key Service Area to create a network of Montana Veteran-Friendly Employers; to enhance employer support; and to provide a direct connection to Service members, Veterans and their Spouses for future employment.

For more information, please contact Ryan Luchau, Community Employment Coordinator with the Montana VA Health Care System at Ryan.Luchau1@va.gov  or by calling (406) 202-8396.

What is the Mayor’s Challenge?

Helena was one of eight cities nationwide selected in 2018 to participate in the Mayor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide Among Service Members, Veterans, and Their Families. The program is sponsored by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the U.S. Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

What is Montana Joining Community Forces?

Montana Joining Community Forces is an all-volunteer non-profit (501c3) comprised of organizations, businesses, and individuals to collaborate to serve Montana communities by centralizing, expanding, and maximizing the resources available to service members, veterans, and their families, in an effort to foster personal and family growth and build sustainable and relevant relationships between the military community and the community at large.

The coalition has open meetings on the second Thursday of each month at 12:30 pm. More information can be found on our website and event calendar at montanajcf.org.

What is the PsychArmor Institute?

PsychArmor’s mission is to bridge the civilian-military divide by ensuring that every American has the tools and resources needed to engage effectively with service members and veterans.

With fewer than 7 percent of our country having served in uniform, most Americans are unfamiliar with military life and culture. A better understanding of military culture and the veteran community can alleviate many of the challenges veterans and service members face when returning from war or transitioning into civilian life.
PsychArmor is the only national institute of its kind, dedicated to bridging the civilian-military divide through free online education and a support center staffed with mental health experts.

PsychArmor recruits nationally recognized subject matter experts to create and deliver online courses about issues relevant to the military and veteran communities. Its self-paced courses are delivered within six schools geared toward military culture, healthcare providers, employers, educators, volunteers, caregivers, and families. It provides critical resources to all Americans who work with, live with, and care about veterans.

Who do I contact if I have questions?

Contact Jess Hegstrom, Suicide Prevention Coordinator, Lewis & Clark Public Health
jhegstrom@lccountymt.gov • Office 457-8970