By Marcie C. Wright, IMCOMJuly 27, 2012
FORT BLISS, Texas -- Fort Bliss and 1st Armored Division commander Maj. Gen. Dana J. H. Pittard received the LivingWorks Community of Excellence Award for effective suicide prevention and intervention programs at a ceremony here July 26, 2012.
The event was appropriately staged at the pulpit of Fort Bliss' Hope Chapel, in the heart of the Wellness Fusion Campus. The Wellness Fusion Campus is a collection of buildings that embody the five pillars of Comprehensive Soldier Fitness and offers alternative medicine to promote a more agile Army.
The first of its kind, the award was presented to Team Bliss for statistically being the number one installation in the Army to train Soldiers, residents and employees on how to recognize, assist and intervene in suicide scenarios. Through education and awareness, the installation has achieved a persistently dropping suicide rate.
Founder of "Give an Hour," Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen said suicide is a community health problem and it takes a community effort to prevent it from occurring. More people who are trained yield more lives saved.
Under the direction of Michelle Wiggins, the Applied Suicide Intervention and Skills Training, or ASIST, program has trained thousands, conducting 146 workshops resulting in 3,910 trained in 2011. The next highest organization in numbers has produced nearly one-third of these efforts. Fort Bliss trained 12.2 percent of everyone trained in the nation, including National Guardsmen and Reservists, according to research conducted by the LivingWorks organization.
The addition of the Wellness Fusion Campus, the post-wide initiative on Comprehensive Soldier Fitness, and ASIST put Fort Bliss in sight of Van Dahlen and the LivingWorks organization.
"Efforts like those here at Fort Bliss provide examples of what we can do if we harness all the resources available to us," said Van Dahlen. "If you take these tools to heart, we can change lives or we can change ourselves."
"By generating a synergistic effort by combining leadership, courage, initiative and support … Fort Bliss is achieving what thousands of trainers across 11 different countries are striving to do," said Jerry M. Swanner, executive director of the U.S. Office of LivingWorks Education.
Swanner said what this installation is doing goes hand in hand with the mission of LivingWorks -- to provide training for and apply suicide first aid.
"We did not choose Fort Bliss for this award; Fort Bliss' commitment and accomplishments created the demand for this award," said Swanner. "This award recognizes that Fort Bliss' accomplishments are unmatched in the world."
Pittard said the real award is knowing there are Soldiers and family members at Fort Bliss that otherwise would not have made it if it wasn't for intervention.
His passion for preventing Soldier deaths is shown through the numerous intervention programs in place here, and he aims to boost installation support from 20 percent trained to 100 percent. One way he plans to accomplish this is by putting all incoming Soldiers through ASIST before clearing the welcome center.
"We believe in ASIST, Master Resilience Training and Dignity and Respect [training]," said Pittard. "It's nice to have the lowest suicide rate in the Army, but we won't be satisfied until our number is zero."