CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq (Army News Service, Aug. 17, 2010) -- By noticing differences in actions and listening to what another Soldier was saying, one Soldier in Iraq was able to prevent another from taking his life by employing the Army's "Ask, Care and Escort" suicide prevention program.

As one of the Army's primary suicide prevention programs, the A.C.E. program encourages Soldiers to be vigilant against signs that another Soldier may be contemplating suicide.

"There was a Soldier who was making comments about how today was the day he was going to kill himself," explained Spc. Amie McClintic, an information systems specialist with 3rd Signal Company, Division Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division. "The Soldier was always joking around, even about serious issues. At first, I just took it as he was making jokes again."

But the Soldiers persistence in such comments led McClintic to challenge him on his intent.

"When he made the comment again later, I let him know that it was not a funny topic, and he shouldn't be joking about it. He responded, 'how do you know I am joking'' At that point, I was not sure if he was still joking or being serious," McClintic said.

Care is the second part of the A.C.E. process and explains what Soldiers should do if they find that someone is thinking about committing suicide.

"Care gives you the 'what to do' if they say yes," said Maj. Terry Romine, a family life chaplain for the DSTB, 3rd ID. "We can reduce the fear of asking that question if we know what care means."

Care, the chaplain said, means never leaving a fellow Soldier alone when they are in trouble.

"You are going to stay with them and listen," he said. "Even if they are giving you their reason to die, it is really important to listen to that, because in their reasons to die, they will also give you their reasons to live. For example, they may say, 'my daughter would be better off if I were dead,' but having a daughter is a better reason to live."

Romine also said care involves removing the means a fellow Soldier may use to commit suicide, but to do so without force.

"You may want to take their weapon, any medications they may have if they had planned to use them to commit suicide, and things of that nature," Romine said.

McClintic cared enough for her fellow Soldier to not only continue to get him to communicate with her, but to open up herself about suicides that had happened in her life.

"Later, I noticed that the Soldier was visibly upset as if something was wrong and I asked him if he wanted to talk about it," she said. "He told me that talking does not help. I then reminded him that if he needed help, there are people that he can talk to, and that I did not think any differently about him -- because suicide is a subject that is very real in my family and in my life."

Suicide is a familiar topic for McClintic, as she has recently had to cope with the effects.

"I have had two people who were very close to me attempt suicide in the past year," McClintic said. "One was successful, and the other ended up in the intensive care unit, but recovered. I know how much that has impacted my family and me, and I did not want him or his family to go through that."

Getting a person who is contemplating suicide to get help on his or her own is not always the easiest task. Sometimes it has to be done for them. This is where the escort portion of A.C.E. comes in to play.

"You do not want to send, but take the Soldier to see a behavioral health specialist," Romine said. "This could mean taking him or her to a combat stress clinic or the emergency room if the clinic is closed."

If it's not possible to take a Soldier to see a behavioral health specialist, Romine said, you should send for help. The chaplain said that if you have to intervene at that point and call the military police or an ambulance, you have to care enough to go against their wishes to get them help.

"I initially informed the mental health specialist for our company," McClintic said. "When the Soldier was unwilling to talk to her, I informed our first sergeant, because this was not an issue where we could wait to see if the Soldier would seek help on his own."

The Soldier was taken to medical authorities for further evaluation and subsequently released back to duty.

"I am just glad that he is still here," McClintic said. "We don't know what the outcome would have been, but that is what we are here for. We are supposed to watch out for our battle buddies and have their back in every situation, even if it may put you in an unfavorable position with them."

(Sgt. Johnathon Jobson writes for Task Force Marne Public Affairs)

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16