Gen. James McConville, the 40th Chief of Staff of the Army, was the final speaker for the 2020 Fires Conference. He asked all leaders in the Army to get after three issues the force is facing right now: sexual assault/harassment, suicide, and racism/extremism.
McConville said the solution is to build cohesive teams.
“If everyone is treating each other with dignity and respect and taking care of each other then you won’t have sexual assault, harassment or racism, extremism in your formations.
"And if you take care of each other and you know your Soldiers, and you’re tied to their families, and you know their buddies — you may know when your Soldiers are having problems, when your Soldiers are having relationship issues, when your Soldiers are having financial or other matters. The family may know and they need to know who to call."
He went on to say the Army has been extremely proactive in handling safety during COVID-19 and he expects the same level of effort to go into caring for Soldiers.
“In the regular Army we have not lost one Soldier, thank God, to COVID. But we are losing Soldiers at a rate that’s 25 percent higher than last year to suicide.
"Now is the time to put people first."
He started his discussion listing the current challenges the Army is facing nationally and the efforts overseas. He thanked the air defense artillery in particular for handling a high operational tempo.
An ADA Soldier asked him what they could do to keep a cohesive team despite the strain of constant deployment rotations. McConville gave the example of needing a Soldier for an upcoming National Training Center rotation, but instead allowing them to witness the birth of their child.
"We shouldn't have Soldiers missing really important events in their life. If we're showing we're willing to invest in our people, they will be with us for the long term."