By J.D. LeipoldApril 16, 2010
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 15, 2010) -- The Army's senior enlisted advisor told members of Congress Wednesday that what keeps him awake at night is stress on the force.
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston testified to the House Appropriations Committee military construction subcommittee alongside his service counterparts from the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. He said that stress across the force affects Soldiers and their families in all three Army components in different ways, depending on whether a Soldier serves in the operational force or the generating force.
"Indicators of stress on the force can be seen in the increase of suicide rates again this past year, post-traumatic stress cases also increasing and divorce rates ticking up a little," Preston said. "I believe the training and the programs we began executing this past year have -- and will continue to make -- a positive impact on these disturbing trends."
Preston added that the committee's support in past years for family housing, barracks, pay, child care and youth services along with their help in modernizing hospital infrastructure had made a significant impact on retaining "our very best Soldiers and their families."
When asked about deployment cycles, Preston said units were averaging between 15 and 18 months between deployments, depending on unit type, adding that he and Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. had seen a marked difference to the positive with dwell times more than 12 months.
"We expect the dwell time to continue to increase... that by the end of 2011 the active component to be at a one- to-two-year ratio and for the reserve component to be at a one-to-four ratio as a minimum requirement," Preston said. "Right now we have some Guard and Reserve units that are a little bit less than one in four... that's the goal by the end of 2011."
With the growth in Soldiers, growth in additional units and organizations, the Army will be able to provide more predictability and stability to the active force, Reserve and National Guard, he said.
Committee members expressed concern over the increase in suicides across the services for the fifth consecutive year, asking Preston about the