By Ms. Christie Vanover (IMCOM)March 30, 2009
CHIAfE+VRES, Belgium - The operation order is out. The Army has officially declared a Stand Down to help prevent suicides.
"The Army is saying, 'Time out. Hold on. Wait a minute. There's a problem. We need to address this problem right now. Everybody stop,'" said Command Sgt. Maj. Ralph Ford, the senior noncommissioned officer for USAG Benelux.
He added that a Stand Down is an attention getter to everyone to recognize what the issue is.
The issue, according to Gen. Peter Chiarelli, is that the Army's suicide rate could surpass that of the national average.
"That's important because the United States Army has always had a suicide rate quite a few numbers below the CDC rate," the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army said, during a Jan. 29, Department of Defense Bloggers Roundtable.
Chiarelli is the central figure in charge of reaching across the Army's components to its 1.1 million Soldiers to bring about progress.
At the Benelux, the arm of support is extending even further. As a support element for NATO, it services Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors and Marines.
"They share those same concerns," said Command Sgt. Maj. Tracey Anbiya, the Installation Management Command-Europe command sergeant major.
After visiting the Benelux and meeting with Servicemembers from all branches, she said, "They want to be a part of the solution, as well, regardless of what uniform we all wear."
The Stand Down is broken into three suicide prevention phases. The first phase was completed March 15, and involved an interactive video that allowed viewers to choose the outcome of a Soldier showing suicidal tendencies.
When senior Air Force and Navy NCOs at the Benelux learned of this training, their Army counterparts passed on the materials, so they could use them with their personnel.
"Accountability is a word that comes to mind when we say a Stand Down," said Anbiya. "Because what we're doing is we're reaching out to every Soldier to every Civilian that's out there, and we're trying to get them to understand what is happening within our Army."
The next phase, which must be completed by July 15 is a chain teach. "The goal of that chain teach is literally to speak personally to every single Soldier in the Army - active guard and reserve," said Chiarelli.
Following Phase I and II, each command will work to sustain the lessons learned and to provide additional tools necessary for their unique environments and operational tempo to combat the issues that lead to suicide.
Chiarelli added that it is absolutely crucial to reach out to Soldiers and tell them that it is not wrong to ask for help. "We have to change our culture...people have feared to reach out because they thought that it might affect their career. That is something that we've got to turn around, and we are committed to doing that."
For those who need help, it's out there. That's one of the benefits of the Army, Ford said. USAG Brussels, Schinnen and ChiAfA..vres all provide support programs through Army Community Services.
"We have to make sure that we continually push that information out to the community, so that they can know that they are not alone," said Ford. "There is help out there for them. There is assistance to help them get through their situation."
A list of community resources and contacts for assistance with family issues, financial problems, substance abuse and more can be found directly on the USAG Benelux homepage.
"I don't believe that there is any dilemma, any disaster, any destruction or any defeat that we can't overcome," said Anbiya. "Nothing is just that bad where you can't overcome it.
"We just need to reach out, and we need to listen, and we need to stick by those that are having a challenging time," she added.
This Stand Down, though driven from the top, is not just a program run by officers and command sergeants major.
"It is of importance to every single leader, even squad leaders and corporals, that this is something that we need to get at," said Maj. Gen. John Hawkins, director, G-1 Human Resources Policy Directorate. "This is not a practice that resonates with what we are about in the United States Army. Some of the methods that we're going to use to get at this will leverage the warrior ethos and the way that we treat ourselves and our fellow Soldiers throughout the Army."
"We all can listen," said Anbiya. "We all can stick by a buddy that's in need. It doesn't matter who you are or what uniform you wear."
Information and training materials for suicide prevention can be found at www.armyg1.army.mil/hr/suicide