FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Feb. 22, 2022) -- Nearly 100 10th Mountain Division (LI) Soldiers strapped on snowshoes and rucksacks Feb. 22 for a 5.5-mile trail hike in support of suicide prevention.
Bill Van Orman, Fort Drum Suicide Prevention Program manager, said this was the first in a series of hikes called the Arctic Warrior 22 Challenge. By the end of the week, participants will hike 22 miles – referencing a statistic that, on average, 22 veterans commit suicide daily.
Van Orman said that, contrary to popular belief, suicide rates are higher in the spring than in the winter. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates are lowest in December and tend to spike in April, May and June.
“So we decided to do something now to generate attention toward suicide prevention ahead of spring,” Van Orman said. “Instead of putting together the usual ACE (Ask, Care, Escort suicide prevention training) classes most Soldiers are familiar with, we wanted to do something a little different.”
The early morning trek started at the 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum Museum and continued along the Black River Trail System. Other hikes will begin at the Commons, the Army Wellness Center and the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers (BOSS) Center.
Van Orman said that each location was selected for a purpose, with the museum representing division pride in its history. The Commons was chosen to coincide with speaking engagements by Dr. Craig Bryan, clinical psychologist in cognitive behavioral psychology and author of “Rethinking Suicide: Why Prevention Fails and How We Can Do Better.”
“Then the next day we go to the Army Wellness Center, where they will learn about programs such as stress management and sleep education,” Van Orman said. “The last day we start at the BOSS Center, and talk about how we can build those social relationships and get involved in community service because those are important to our mental health.”
Van Orman said that, although September is Army Suicide Awareness Month, there are efforts year-round to promote suicide prevention training.
“We focus our awareness campaign in September, but we also focus on suicide prevention all year with training classes and outreach events,” he said.
Participants in the early-morning snowshoe hike represented units from across the 10th Mountain Division, and Van Orman encouraged them to be social and talk with Soldiers outside their brigade or company.
Capt. Rosa Chavez, with B Battery, 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, said the event was a good way to build camaraderie and raise awareness.
“We had a loss in our unit just last year,” she said. “So it was important to me to show Soldiers what we have available in our Suicide Prevention Program, especially for new Soldiers coming into the 10th Mountain Division (LI) who don’t know about these programs.”
The Fort Drum Suicide Prevention Program office is located in the Soldier and Family Readiness Center, Bldg. 10250, 4th Armored Division Drive. For more information, call (315) 772-9018.
For information about the Army Suicide Prevention Program, visit http://www.armyg1.army.mil/hr/suicide.
The Military Crisis Line is a free, confidential resource for all service members to speak with trained counselors. Call 1-800-273-8255 (Press 1) or text 838255.