Twelve of the highest ranking and most experienced U.S. Army Medical Command non-commissioned officers, along with senior active-duty and Reserve representatives, met Aug. 20--21 at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., to discuss concerns facing Soldiers and develop courses of action. The U.S. Army Public Health Command hosted the meeting of senior MEDCOM NCOs.

USAPHC Command Sgt. Maj. Gerald C. Ecker took this opportunity to explain how the USAPHC mission of preventing disease and injury and promoting public health aids leaders and Soldiers by providing tools to support Army wellness. He talked about the development and use of a leadership tool, the Soldier Leader Risk Reduction Tool, that assists leaders to recognize risk in Soldiers and options to mitigate the risk. This tool was used Army-wide as part of the September suicide stand-down.

The increased rates of suicide among Army personnel is a topic of great concern to the attendees. As they discussed training and other possible suicide prevention measures, these leaders shared methods of helping to stop these tragedies.

MEDCOM Command Sgt. Maj. Donna A. Brock suggested that a comprehensive focus on wellness could help to prevent suicides. She said that as leaders, they must be aware of the needs of their Soldiers.

Others agreed and said that leaders need to be involved with Soldiers and to
use the opportunity of a slower operations tempo to get closer to them. They discussed the importance of peer-to-peer interaction among Soldiers as a first line of defense.

Advances in technology such as "smart" phones, Facebook and Twitter were discussed as possible options to meet Soldiers where they live. Leaders felt that by using the technology their Soldiers used they would have more opportunities to communicate openly and honestly.

The need for communication in many areas was determined to be an important factor in dealing with Soldiers. Leaders felt the need to look for mentoring opportunities and provide guidance to help Soldiers develop the qualifications needed to compete for the assignments for which they are best suited.

Attending this event was Fredricke Clayton, a former MEDCOM command sergeant major who is currently an executive operations specialist to the MEDCOM command sergeant major. Clayton has worked with Soldiers as both an NCO and a civilian and contributed a historical perspective to the discussions.

He praised those who attended the event for their dedication to Soldier health and encouraged them to continue focusing on prevention and helping the Soldiers they lead.