USA — Army Guard Leader Stresses ‘New Norm’

ARLINGTON, Va., Nov. 24, 2010 — Army Nation­al Guard sol­diers who faced men­tal health issues in the past may have been hes­i­tant to ask for help, because of a fear of being stig­ma­tized or not being pro­mot­ed.
How­ev­er, sol­diers in the Army Nation­al Guard now must adopt the “New Norm” pol­i­cy, which makes ask­ing for assis­tance a pri­or­i­ty, Com­mand Sgt. Maj. Richard Burch, the com­mand sergeant major of the Army Nation­al Guard, said in a mem­o­ran­dum to first-line lead­ers dat­ed Nov. 19.

“The ‘New Norm’ is the expec­ta­tion that our sol­diers, fam­i­lies and employ­ers speak up and ask for assis­tance when they face a chal­lenge that they can­not resolve them­selves,” he said. The pol­i­cy, Burch said, seeks to coun­ter­act neg­a­tive stereo­types that some may have toward those who seek help. 

“The fail­ure to seek or pro­vide assis­tance is unac­cept­able,” he said. “Seek­ing and pro­vid­ing it is what we expect and encour­age.” Burch likened it to hav­ing a flat tire on the high­way. While most are able to change the flat tire for the spare tire on their own, he said, that is a tem­po­rary solu­tion. To fix the flat tire itself, the help of a pro­fes­sion­al is need­ed, he said. 

“Very few are able to fix the flat tire with­out assis­tance from a pro­fes­sion­al, the ser­vice depart­ment employ­ee trained to patch and repair flat tires,” Burch said. “It is not a sign of weak­ness [to ask for that help]. We should know our lim­i­ta­tions and seek assis­tance when we have exceed­ed our abil­i­ties.” Burch also encour­aged sol­diers to use the Bud­dy-to-Bud­dy or Peer-to-Peer pro­grams in addi­tion to pro­fes­sion­al services. 

The goal is that sol­diers ask for help rather than to try and work through prob­lems on their own. “When reach­ing out to a bud­dy or peer and seek­ing out the pro­fes­sion­als becomes the norm, we can pro­claim suc­cess,” Burch said. “The ulti­mate goal is to find an accept­able solu­tion before an issue becomes a problem.” 

Burch said the “New Norm” pol­i­cy also ties in direct­ly with the Army’s War­rior Ethos of mis­sion first, nev­er quit­ting or accept­ing defeat, and help­ing oth­er war­riors when they need it. 

Embrac­ing the pol­i­cy as part of the War­rior Ethos, he said, is one of the ways lead­ers can ensure the “New Norm” becomes just that. “We must estab­lish that not seek­ing help is a behav­ior that is unac­cept­able,” Burch said. “We val­ue each mem­ber of the [team] too much to leave them strand­ed beside the road. Most of all, we will not tol­er­ate any mis­treat­ment of those who seek help. The War­rior Ethos demon­strates every facet of this expectation.” 

As more lead­ers engage with and know those under their com­mand, Burch said, the bet­ter pre­pared the entire team will be to pro­vide help if needed. 

“We expect all [lead­ers] … to be engaged in know­ing their team, reach­ing out to the team, help­ing when we can, and guid­ing each oth­er to the pro­fes­sion­als that are avail­able through the resources avail­able in our net­work of providers,” he said. 

And that, Burch said, starts with the Army Guard’s senior leadership. 

The lead­er­ship of Army Guard sol­diers, their fam­i­lies and employ­ers “is com­mit­ted to mov­ing for­ward with this expec­ta­tion as the ‘New Norm,’ ” he said. 

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

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