By Jim Cunningham IMCOM KOREAMarch 4, 2009
RED CLOUD GARRISON -The Army Times emblazoned their front page Feb. 16 with these five words 'The Army is killing itself.' When referring to "The Army is killing itself," the "Army Times" is speaking of suicide within the military, and that is just what Soldiers and Department of Defense Civilians spoke about in a suicide prevention class, Feb. 25 in the USAG-RC theatre.
In the past, suicide briefings have been conducted in an informal setting using a slide show with many slides. However, Maj. Wayne Garcia, USAG-RC chaplain and training leader, did not want the standard "death by power point presentation," as he likes to call it., He took his briefing to a different level using an interactive DVD program called "Beyond the Front."
"Beyond the Front," is a simulation DVD where the audience is taken through the story of Spc. Kyle Norton, a fictional Soldier who, while deployed for the first time, goes through some life changing events, which could possibly lead to suicide. For this simulation, events such as a breakup, death, depression, confusion, and insomnia were used.
At certain points during the presentation, the DVD would stop and let the audience decide what choice Norton should make, knowing if they make the wrong decision it can lead to the Soldier surviving or committing suicide.
"The idea of the interactive video is to help Soldiers recognize signs and symptoms of extreme depression that may lead to suicide, both in themselves and others," states information on http://soldiersmind.com/2008/10/09/beyond-the-front/, They learn how they can intervene for themselves and seek help, or how they can intervene with a friend and steer them into seeking help before it is too late."
"I think the program was as realistic as it could be without sending you into combat," Garcia said. "Putting you (the audience) in the place of Norton made it possible to identify with the person, and it kept the audience engaged, because they did not want to be the ones to kill Norton,"
Before each decision was made, Garcia discussed each situation going on in Norton's life. At that point, Garcia would view the options of each choice with the audience and would let them make their own choice, yet in the end, Norton lived.
At the end of the briefing, Garcia passed out "ACE" cards for the Soldiers to read. The card explains to Soldiers how to talk to your buddy, care for your buddy, and escort your buddy, if he is contemplating suicide. For some Soldiers the card will be an inspection item.
"You can always talk to someone, and no matter who you are, seeking help is a sign of strength, it takes a lot of courage, blowing it off won't get you the help you need," Garcia said.