Dempsey: Military Must Persevere to Solve Suicide Issue

SINGAPORE, June 1, 2012 — The chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff yes­ter­day said he dis­agrees “in the strongest pos­si­ble terms” with an Army major general’s char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of sui­cide as a self­ish act.

Here you can find more infor­ma­tion about: 

“I’ve been in con­tact with Army senior lead­er­ship and know they share my con­cern,” Army Gen. Mar­tin E. Dempsey said, regard­ing recent con­tro­ver­sy over Army Maj. Gen. Dana J.H. Pittard’s blog com­ments, since retracted. 

Dempsey spoke with Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice while fly­ing here for the Shangri-La Dia­logue, an annu­al Asia secu­ri­ty sum­mit that begins today. 

Pit­tard, com­man­der of the 1st Armored Divi­sion and Fort Bliss, Texas, wrote the blog post in Jan­u­ary after attend­ing the memo­r­i­al ser­vice of one of his sol­diers, who took his own life. Pit­tard wrote that he is “per­son­al­ly fed up with sol­diers who are choos­ing to take their own lives so that oth­ers can clean up their mess.” 

Dempsey said the com­ments were “both unfor­tu­nate and extreme­ly inappropriate.” 

In retract­ing the remarks last week, Pit­tard expressed his “deep­est sin­cer­i­ty and respect towards those whom I have offend­ed,” not­ing sui­cide is a very com­plex issue that plagues not just the mil­i­tary, but soci­ety overall. 

There have been 140 sui­cides across the ser­vices thus far in 2012, accord­ing to defense offi­cials. This com­pares with 122 at this time last year, and 110 at this point in 2010. Among ser­vice mem­bers who have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, more have died by sui­cide than by ene­my action. 

The Army is the largest mil­i­tary branch and sees the most sui­cides, but the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force as well as the Army have poured time, mon­ey, effort and train­ing into pro­grams and ser­vices aimed at stem­ming the trag­ic flood. Vet­er­an sui­cides are also alarm­ing­ly high, at 18 per day as report­ed by the U.S. Depart­ment of Vet­er­ans Affairs. 

“We’ve been hard at [com­bat­ing sui­cide] for at least the last sev­en years,” the chair­man said. “We have not spared any effort, but nor have we turned the trend line.” 

Dempsey said he has spo­ken often and at length about the need for pro­fes­sion­al mil­i­tary mem­bers, from the newest recruit to the most senior offi­cer, “to be very intro­spec­tive at this point in our his­to­ry about what a pro­longed con­flict, the longest war in our his­to­ry, with an all-vol­un­teer force, has done to us and to our families.” 

“The issue of sui­cide, and all of the oth­er trag­ic men­tal health issues that we have expe­ri­enced over the last 10 years of war, require us to con­tin­ue to seek to learn,” he added. 

Senior lead­ers in par­tic­u­lar are “account­able for help­ing the entire pro­fes­sion, the entire force, under­stand the issues,” the chair­man said, adding that Pittard’s com­ments “did­n’t help, but hurt, our efforts to under­stand. They added anoth­er lay­er of confusion.” 

Lead­ers must help men and women who are expe­ri­enc­ing “incred­i­ble stress­es in their lives” get help, he added. 

Dempsey said his approach is to ensure mil­i­tary lead­ers don’t address issues such as sui­cide in isolation. 

“We’ve got … the issue of increas­ing sui­cides; we’ve got sta­tis­tics that demon­strate sex­u­al assault remains [an issue]; we’ve got an increase in report­ed instances of haz­ing,” he said. “Not all are relat­ed to war, but all are relat­ed to who we believe we are, and … what knowl­edge, skills and attrib­ut­es we seek in the young men and women who serve — and the not-so-young men and women who serve.” 

The chair­man said his goal is to see those issues in con­text with each oth­er, and to ensure recruit­ing, poli­cies, edu­ca­tion and train­ing across the forces are man­aged to address the issues as effec­tive­ly as possible. 

“Over the last 10 years we’ve learned a lot about what attrib­ut­es we may need for the future,” Dempsey said. “Are we, in our recruit­ing base, seek­ing them? In our edu­ca­tion sys­tem, are we devel­op­ing them? In our eval­u­a­tion reports, are we reward­ing them?” 

The mil­i­tary is a won­der­ful pro­fes­sion of which he could­n’t be more proud, Dempsey said, yet there are now a num­ber of “weak sig­nals” that, tak­en togeth­er, empha­size the need for con­tin­ued learn­ing and change. 

“Ulti­mate­ly, we are respon­sive to the peo­ple of the Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca and to the Con­sti­tu­tion,” he said. “You’re not a pro­fes­sion just because you say you are, you’re a pro­fes­sion because you earn that title every day. This is anoth­er one of those instances where I think we’ve got to take a good hard look at ourselves.” 

The chair­man not­ed he often speaks of main­tain­ing the bond of trust with­in the military. 

Part of that bond rests in lead­ers pay­ing atten­tion to the men­tal health of ser­vice mem­bers, build­ing in their troops a sense of resilience and the self-con­fi­dence that comes with “hard train­ing, know­ing you’re men­tored, know­ing you’re cared for, know­ing there’s some­one out there that cares about you and you’re part of a team,” he said. 

Mul­ti­ple pres­sures come to bear in the lives of ser­vice mem­bers and their fam­i­lies, Dempsey said. 

“We’ve got to keep at this,” he said. 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →