Concern for fellow Soldier prevents suicide
March 5, 2010
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - A chance phone call late one evening, coupled with prompt actions of personnel at the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, helped a Soldier in crisis on the other side of the world.
A chaplain was trying to reach the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg and instead reached Bryant Hall at SWCS.
"I don't know what's up with my phone, but I get calls for the 82nd all the time," said the plans and operations officer.
The chaplain had been contacted by a young specialist who was worried about a friend - a fellow Soldier currently serving with the 82nd in Afghanistan. Convinced that the Soldier had been "unequivocally talking of committing suicide," the chaplain was trying to reach someone at the 82nd.
Since the call came in after normal duty hours, and given the immediacy of the situation, the SWCS officer decided to take action.
Lieutenant Col. Corey Weller and Hall had been working on a project when the call came in. After quickly talking about the details, they discussed how to secure help for the Soldier.
They informed SWCS leadership and contacted individuals whom they knew to be in a position to facilitate help. The unique structure of the U.S. Army allows each Soldier to form an extensive database of contacts from previous and current assignments.
"Just having the network in place sped it up exponentially," said Weller.
Within 20 minutes they received a response that the Soldier had been located and immediately escorted to a combat stress clinic for evaluation.
"(After) a couple of phone calls and a couple of e-mails - it was heartening to see caring, senior leaders get involved," Weller said. "Any cry for help, I think we should take seriously."
The Army has seen a steady rise in suicides over the past decade. Last year, there were 160 active-duty Soldiers and 78 reservists who committed suicide. Both statistics are a marked increase over the reported suicides in 2008, and every unit has the potential to be affected.
In an effort to decrease further tragedies, the Army has implemented several programs.
The Army Suicide Prevention Task Force was formed under the ongoing Army Campaign Plan for Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention. Combat stress clinics have been set up in Iraq and Afghanistan to provide help for Soldiers currently deployed. A variety of resources are also available online 24-hours a day.
As in the case of the deployed 82nd Soldier, friends and Family are often the first line of defense against suicide. Fellow Soldiers and coworkers also play a role.
"Any suicide is a tragedy. We have a stern challenge considering the stress our Army is under. Suicide prevention takes serious effort and personal involvement from everyone," said Brig. Gen. Bennet Sacolick, deputy commanding general, SWCS.