FORT BRAGG, N.C.–In July, 38 Soldiers took their own lives, setting a deadly record high forthe Army. As of September, the total number of Soldiers lost to suicide this year is 187. Army leadership prescribed mandatory training for every Soldier and civilian member of the force. Fort Bragg’s 16th Military Police Brigade held theirs Sept. 25.
“During the month of September, we had many events on post highlighting suicide prevention and reemphasizing the importance of personal intervention,” said Col. Chad B. McRee, the brigade commander and Fort Bragg’s director of emergency services.
Many believe personal intervention to be the key to preventing suicide in the armed forces.”Suicide prevention starts with the involvement of every Soldier and Family member,” said Lt. Gen. Daniel B. Allyn, commander, XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg. “To effectively stop suicides before they happen, we must know our Soldiers intimately.”
There are many agencies within the Army and Fort Bragg which have joined together in order to educate the force in methods of suicide prevention and intervention, but it is the individual Soldier who is in the best place to help someone in need.
“Right now we have the most educated army in the world when it comes to suicide prevention,” said McRee, who also serves as the director of Fort Bragg’s suicide prevention program. “Our Soldiers are more aware about the issues of suicide and we are seeing this pay off in the number of reported interventions. We see more and more people reach out, because they see and recognize the signs amongst their buddies and Families and this is a positive effect of our training.”
Training is happening at all levels of the Army, from the civilian leadership to the newest recruit. Programs like the annually-mandated Ask, Care and Escort, commonly referred to as ACE, training, puts intervention skills literally in the pocket of every Soldier, and also the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training, which provides a more in-depth training program for first-line supervisors and other gatekeepers.
It’s these gatekeepers, first-line supervisors and noncommissioned officers, who are on the front lines of preventive buddy care.
“These leaders must make the effort to know their Soldiers on a professional and personal level,” said. Maj. Shawn P. McMahon, brigade executive officer. “This will allow them to effectively identify the different issues which a Soldier may have and then direct them to the many resources that are available to assist them.”
Leaders at every level have an obligation to support their Soldiers, Family members and civilian workforce.
“People must be willing to stand up and take hold of this and be passionate about it,” said McRee. “Leader involvement makes a difference. No one should be out there standing alone; from the most junior corporal to the youngest family member – it’s about a caring community who wants to help. We all have to reach out to people and we must all get involved.”