By Heather Graham-Ashley, III Corps and Fort Hood Public AffairsJuly 26, 2012
FORT HOOD, Texas (July 26, 2012) -- Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III and his team of key Army leaders conducted their Health of the Force visit at Fort Hood July 26.
The visit was Austin's first to the Great Place since he assumed the vice chief position in February.
Austin, accompanied by Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler III, Surgeon General of the Army Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho, Installation Management Command Commander Lt. Gen. Michael Ferriter, and others, was at Fort Hood as part of a week-long assessment of six installations. During the tour, the leaders met with installation leaders, Soldiers and families to learn about programs, services and resources available at the posts.
"This is not an inspection," Austin said. "This is us working together."
Austin said the group was at Fort Hood to learn about best practices in use and to work with installation leaders to "discover things we can do better."
Specifically, Austin and the others came to Fort Hood to look at suicide prevention, the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response Program, wounded warrior care and the Integrated Disability Evaluation System and to see how the post is addressing each of those issues and programs.
Those issues, Austin said, "speak to how we take care of our Soldiers," and are "fundamental to what we do."
The Army must do a more effective job of taking care of Soldiers and their families, but the force must accomplish that while facing dramatic budget and personnel cuts, the vice chief said.
"We must rehabilitate, reset and reshape the force for our next fight," he said.
The onus is on leaders and Soldiers to take ownership of the challenges faced Armywide, the vice chief said.
"This is our business," Austin said. "We've got to own it."
Following the vice chief's remarks, post officials offered the team some insight into what is being done at the Great Place.
Engaged leadership has been the approach at Fort Hood to address key issues facing the force, explained Lt. Gen. Don Campbell Jr., III Corps and Fort Hood commanding general.
Since he assumed command at Fort Hood in April 2011, Campbell has taken a hands-on approach to key health of the force issues such as suicide, sexual assault and behavioral health challenges by chairing the boards that review each of those incidents. He schedules twice-a-year stand down days to address those issues and educate Soldiers and leaders about how they can help, urging them to get involved.
Campbell also communicates his messages via weekly columns in the Sentinel, through radio and video public service announcements, and through engagement with the Central Texas community.
Improving the health of the force at Fort Hood comes down to reaching the troops and preventing suicides and assaults, and getting help for those who need it. Eliminating the stigma of asking for help is key to the process.
"We've got to continue to demonstrate and reinforce to leaders and Soldiers that there are no negative repercussions to asking for help; we've got to get to the point where people understand that it's simply the right thing to do," Campbell said.
Other Fort Hood leaders highlighted their efforts to address the health of the force.
Col. Patrick Sargent, commander of Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, addressed the medical review and retirement process and the need for more providers, noting that Fort Hood has the largest population of Soldiers in the Integrated Disability Evaluation System, known as IDES.
Charlie Green, director, Directorate of Human Resources, discussed Fort Hood's Sponsorship Program and how the program helps begin a Soldier's acclimation to Fort Hood before he or she even arrives.
Col. John Kolessar, commander, Fort Hood Warrior Transition Brigade, or WTB, presented some of the successes as well as the challenges at the unit.
The TRIAD of leadership involving Soldiers, providers and military leaders, management of poly-pharmaceutical Soldiers and the unit's internship program dubbed Operation Warfighter all are success stories at the WTB, Kolessar said.
Remote care as the brigade prepares to assume command of a community-based Warrior Transition Unit in Arkansas and the future battalion and brigade structure were challenges, Kolessar noted.
Lt. Col. Blaine Radenz, III Corps and Fort Hood Equal Opportunity officer, addressed the post's SHARP program.
"Fort Hood is being proactive in implementing the SHARP program," he said, noting III Corps' leadership involvement and a partnership with IMCOM.
Currently, the post has 512 personnel assigned to the sexual harassment and prevention program, but is expected to meet the U.S. Army Forces Command's new mandated number of 844 personnel by Oct. 1, Radenz added.
During the briefing, Austin and his team asked questions and began dialogs about the health of the force issues. Following the Fort Hood presentations, the vice chief and members of his team hosted sensing sessions with smaller groups of Soldiers and family members to address the issues.
Information and feedback gathered on these visits will be compiled for an executive summary scheduled to be released Aug. 7, followed by an executive order based on the findings and suggestions to be issued in mid-September, Austin said.
"It's important we work together and think together on the way ahead," he said.