The Marne Division is implementing the Army’s new suicide prevention chain teach initiative across its units at Fort Stewart, Fort Benning and Hunter Army Airfield. The intent of this chain teach is for in-person training of every leader in the active Army by March 1, while reserve components will finish by Sept. 1, 2022.
“The new training demonstrates a realization that a societal issue like this cannot be solved simply from the top down- a lot of this needs to be refined from the bottom up,” said Col. William Davis, the 3rd Infantry Division Artillery commander. “It’s important to make every effort to train leaders to recognize those indicators and warning signs as early as possible.”
Davis and Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Flynn, the Division Artillery command team, led a training session and discussion with their brigade staff and battalion command teams on Feb. 10, at Fort Stewart.
The DIVARTY training discussions focused on leaders’ personal involvements with suicides and suicidal ideations, their observations on trends and contributing factors, and the role that engaged leadership can play when individuals are in need.
The new initiative focuses on ensuring Soldiers know that they matter. The training format enables leaders to tailor the discussions with their Soldiers to what they feel will be most effective. It includes dialogue about leader visibility tools and processes for recognizing risk and protective factors, identifying available resources, engaging in targeted prevention, implementing early intervention strategies, and accomplishing post prevention actions. Leaders are also required to discuss stigma reduction methods and the Army’s efforts to foster cohesive and inclusive teams.
“The new training has a renewed focus on risk mitigation efforts like removing lethal means,” said Davis. “It also provides new tools to assist not only command teams, but any leader, in assisting in that early intervention prior to an actual crisis. It’s aligned with the Centers for Disease Control suicide prevention efforts and Department of Health policies; it’s not just some separate Army program. It’s very tailorable to any organization based on their composition and trends, which I appreciated.”
DIVARTY leaders discussed the complex dilemmas of how to get others to understand that while events or issues, like a relationship ending or even being punished under UCMJ, might seem huge in the moment, it is not the end of the world. It also focused on the importance of early recognition and the use of resources before things may escalate to the need for trained behavioral health care professionals.
Suicides are devastating to Army families, teammates, and readiness, and the Army is committed to understanding, identifying, and providing services and support to vulnerable individuals to let them know life is a life worth living.
The new, comprehensive and integrated policies focus on prevention, rather than intervention, by addressing risk and protective factors to reduce stressors that may lead to harmful behaviors.
In addition to special training events, such as the chain teach and 24/7 resources, like Chaplains and Military Family Life consultants, the 3rd ID also has special programs like Marne Guardian to serve as a resource for Soldiers at the peer level.
Marne Guardian focuses on empowerment and trains junior Soldiers on the policies and resources available to inform their peers, support the command in training, or potentially intervene with matters pertaining to the Sexual Harassment Assault Response Prevention and Equal Opportunity programs, resiliency, and suicide prevention.
Spc. Logan Weatherford, assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, DIVARTY, thinks the Marne Guardian program is a way to spread influence to Soldiers in the junior ranks that might not yet be fully familiar with the Army.
“I believe that the Marne Guardian program is going to make Soldiers trust each other more,” said Weatherford. “I believe the Army needs that.”
Suicide is a community issue that requires a community solution, with Soldiers understanding that seeking help is a sign of strength.
Sergeant Major of the Army Michael A. Grinston said this initiative is one aspect of the Army’s suicide prevention efforts and is designed to empower Soldiers and augment leaders’ continuous focus on this issue.
“Our intent is to get upstream of suicide by ensuring Soldiers have a comprehensive understanding of what resources are available and how to use them,” Grinston said.