FORT MEADE, Md. -- Army Reserve Soldiers from the 200th Military Police Command and other major Reserve commands took time away from their military and civilian jobs to learn a skill that could save lives.
Twenty-five Soldiers, dressed in business casual, sat in a small room surrounded by large paper taped to the walls covered in words and phrases as a result of several group brain-storming activities during a week-long Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training course recently.
After completion of the course, Soldiers were qualified to teach the two-day ASIST course to Army Soldiers and civilians.
Brig. Gen. Phillip Churn, the commanding general of the 200th Military Police Command, took several minutes to talk with the course participants and expressed the importance of the program for Active Duty, Army National Guard and the Army Reserve Soldiers.
"This program is one of my top priorities," he said. "We must give our Soldiers the proper education and resources to help our 200th MPCOM families. Some of us may only wear the uniform one weekend a month, but they are our family 365 days a year."
Churn, who commands more than 14,000 Soldiers and the largest military police organization in the Army, said suicide prevention and saving lives is a critical mission for every Soldier.
"We must help our families who live in 44 states, and it starts right here in the classroom," he said. "The information you are receiving today is critical for laying the foundation of a healthy Army Reserve family."
ASIST is required by the Army for all personnel whose duties are likely to bring them in contact with Soldiers, civilians and family members who are in crisis, said David Dummer, the command's Suicide Prevention Program Manager.
He said the Army estimates that these Soldiers and civilian employees, collectively referred to as "gatekeepers," comprise about 10 percent of total personnel.
Since October, Dummer said the 200th MPCOM has completed 13 of 17 scheduled ASIST workshops and taught nearly 400 personnel how to help anyone who is contemplating suicide.
"The research-based ASIST curriculum was designed by LivingWorks, a global leader in suicide prevention," Dummer said. "Instructors must follow the LivingWorks model and are required to meet eligibility criteria in order to maintain their certification.
At the conclusion of the workshop, Dummer said every brigade and direct reporting unit under the Fort Meade-based major Army Reserve command now has at least one ASIST instructor.
"The remaining training slots were allocated to other commands and organizations with which the 200th has formed strategic alliances in the campaign to save lives," he said.
He mention, one such ally is the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-TALK. Capt. Christopher Maginn is an Army Reserve Soldier assigned to the Army Reserve Medical Command and full-time call-taker at the hotline.
Along with the ARMEDCOM, the 99th Regional Support Command and Fort Meade also sent representatives to the instructor course.
"The 99th and 200th frequently collaborate on suicide prevention, Yellow Ribbon programs, and related initiatives and have forged strong partnerships on multiple levels," said Dummer.
Churn said ASIST workshops are essential the front-line defense to help Soldiers and families facing crisis.
"We must take care of our own," he said. "We stand shoulder-to-shoulder on the battlefield and back home in our communities across this great nation. Our Soldiers fight for our freedoms abroad and today, we take on a battle to ensure our formations and families have a voice and someone is there to listen to them in a time of need."
He said the Army Reserve is a proud organization filled with people who are making a difference in the lives of their communities.
"As we never leave a comrade behind in harm's way, and we will never leave an Army Reserve family behind in a time of need."