By Staff Sgt. Amber RobinsonOctober 1, 2012
FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii (Oct. 1, 2012) -- Recent Army statistics have revealed an influx in Soldier suicide over the last year, which has brought great concern to the Army. In response to this concern, the Army initiated a safety stand down for suicide awareness Sept. 27.
Leaders, Soldiers and civilians with U.S. Army Pacific addressed the issue of suicide in a variety of ways, setting the stage for a more aware and involved force.
USARPAC Soldiers started the safety stand down with a battalion run, which started and ended at Historic Palm Circle. Maj. Gen. Roger F. Mathews, USARPAC deputy commander, provided comments to Soldiers prior to the run.
"As we stand here, today," said Mathews. "I ask you to think about those Soldiers who are missing from our ranks because they have taken their own life."
Each section and directorate was responsible for generating internal conversations about suicide; how it can best be handled, how Soldiers may have handled it in the past and what Soldiers and civilians can do to become more aware of the issue in their work spaces.
Mandatory suicide prevention awareness training was also conducted at the Fort Shafter Fitness Center. Four training sessions were conducted throughout the day for Soldiers and Department of Army Civilians.
Mandatory training at the Fort Shafter Fitness Center was provided by Col. Michael Dugal, USARPAC command chaplain. Dugal provided Soldiers with a variety of ideas about how to best handle suicide as a leader or as a peer. He encouraged Soldiers and leaders to remain open and approachable for Soldiers who may be in need and especially encouraged those in need to come forward.
"We must all be ambassadors of hope," said Dugal. "We all have a responsibility to each other."
"What is most important is being genuine in the effort," said Wayne Hankammer, Suicide Prevention Program manager, U.S. Army Pacific., "That is all it really takes. If someone, even if it is just Soldier to Soldier, wants to talk to someone and they feel the person they are talking to have their back and wants to listen, that makes all the difference."
Alongside training was a Health Promotion Fair, in which various health organizations set up different stations Soldiers could cycle through to gather information on how to maintain a healthy psyche, a good attitude and a healthy body. Representatives were on hand to talk to Soldiers about various health issues, all of which help to support a happy, healthy Soldier.
Army leaders and suicide prevention specialists took a strong stand throughout the week, talking with not only Soldiers, but addressing the community about suicide awareness.
"We have a lot of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines who live out in the community," said Command Sgt. Maj. Frank Leota, USARPAC command sergeant major. "We need to get the message out of the importance of the steps we are taking, as an Army. This involves the community because it affects the community. A lot of our Soldiers are a part of this community, they are locked in with PTA, and other outside community organizations, so it's not just an Army problem, it's our nation's problem."