By Dave Larsen, Fort Hood Sentinel EditorMarch 28, 2011
FORT HOOD, Texas -- Calling the need for Army aviation assets in Iraq and Afghanistan "almost unquenchable," Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli met with media members here and discussed the Army's efforts to reduce stress on the force and its families.
Chiarelli was at Fort Hood to promote two colonels to brigadier general and to see deployment preparations by the 1st Cavalry Division's 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, which is set to deploy in approximately 30 days.
"Our aviation forces have been stretched, probably the most stretched part of the force," Chiarelli told the assembled media prior to the promotion ceremony. "I wanted to talk to these great warriors before they went out and get a feel for how they're doing in their preparations."
The general said Army aviation units, like the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, are getting roughly 16 months of dwell time for every year deployed. He expects dwell time to increase for nearly all Army units by the end of 2012 to a two-to-one ratio: two years at home station for every year deployed.
Optimally, he said, the Army's goal is a three-to-one ratio: 27 months at home for every nine months deployed.
"That's the goal of the Army," Chiarelli said, "but we are not there yet."
As the Army strives to increase dwell time for its troops and their families, it also continues stressing its suicide prevention efforts. The Vice Chief of Staff said he is encouraged by a recent drop in suicides, noting there were eight suicides in the active Army in February.
"Any suicide is one too many," he said, "(but that's) the lowest we've had in over a year. Albeit it's not zero, those numbers are encouraging. I really believe we have leaders engaged. I give all the credit to them. They are revitalizing garrison leadership techniques ensuring that Soldiers who have problems get the help that they need."
Chiarelli said that engaged leadership throughout the Army is "playing a critical role, I believe, in driving down the number of suicides we're seeing in the Army today," he said. "I would also tell you that the number of suicides is down in the Reserve Component from last year, which is also a very encouraging sign."
With a promotion ceremony on the 1st Cavalry Division parade field minutes away, Chiarelli spoke of his hopes and expectations for the First Team, as it prepares to deploy later in the year to Afghanistan.
"I want the 1st Cav to do what the 1st Cav has always done," said Chiarelli, who served with the division several times and commanded them during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004-05, "and that's excel."
He said he's expecting there to be a difference, though, this time around.
"Go into it ensuring that Soldiers who have concussive events get the help that they need," Chiarelli said, referring to traumatic brain injuries. "Those are the hidden wounds of this war, both traumatic brain injuries and post traumatic stress. The leaders of the Cav today are much more aware than I was when I deployed as the division commander in 2004."