Broncos emphasize mental health during CSA visit
March 1, 2010
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii (Feb. 26, 2009) -- The leaders of the Bronco Brigade met with Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. in a roundtable discussion about <a href="http://www.army.mil/csf" target=Aca,!A?_blank">Comprehensive Soldier Fitness</a> during his visit here, Feb. 26.
The 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, brigade and battalion commanders and command sergeants major, along with brigade health care officers, the military family life consultant and the director of the Schofield Barracks Health Clinic told Casey about their efforts to provide Soldiers with the best health care available and to break the stigma surrounding mental health care.
"I talk to battalion and brigade commanders about mental health care, and they get it," said Casey, referring to the importance of mental health care. "We've made huge progress. Four or five years ago, we surveyed the Army and 80 percent said there was a stigma. Now only 50 percent say there is one, but that's 500,000 people. So I don't think we've solved the problem yet."
The brigade leadership made a concerted effort to link its leaders and local health care providers together to improve Soldier care when the unit returned from Iraq in October, 2009. Senior brigade leaders meet with health care providers, senior spouses, Army Community Service representatives and social workers in a twice-monthly meeting known as the Pohai Pulama, or Caring Circle, organized by the Schofield Barracks Health Clinic director.
"We take all these people who have different pieces of the puzzle and we sit at the table and put the puzzle together to help Soldiers," said Col. Michael Brumage, the clinic director, describing the meetings. There are multiple agencies where Soldiers can get help, ranging from doctors to Military One Source and ACS.
"I know my Soldiers. I've been with them for two years, as we trained for Iraq and when we deployed," said Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Stout, the 3rd Squadron, 4th U.S. Cavalry Regiment command sergeant major. "We care about Comprehensive Soldier Fitness. We want to help our Soldiers to grow from their experiences in combat and not develop a disorder."
Stout told Casey that leaders can be left out of the loop when Soldiers need mental health care.
"I know when a Soldier has an injured leg. I know how to help him recover and I can design a [physical training] program to get him well. We need the same kind of visibility to help our Soldiers recover when they need mental health care," said Stout.
The unit leadership needs to be involved, while still respecting medical privacy, to help Soldiers function at their best, he said.
The brigade's focus on taking care of people first stems from leaders' experiences with multiple deployments and changing the attitude about taking care of the whole Soldier concept.
"This is a military operation," said Lt. Col. Jerry Turner, the 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment commander. "Soldier Care is a commander's critical information requirement. This is commander's business," he said.
The group agreed that mental health care is vital to Soldier and family well being. As part of the CSF program, Casey urged leaders at the platoon level, including Master Resilience Trainers, to help change the perception of a mental health stigma. "This is where we will solve the problem," he said.
"You can't watch the Olympics without understanding how important the mental dimension is to physical competition," Casey added. "Soldiers continually want to be better and we will help them."
Casey visited the brigade following a town hall meeting with Schofield Barracks Soldiers and their families. He was in town to attend funeral services for Retired Gen. Frederick C. Weyand Feb. 26 and 27.