USA — Mullen: Military Needs Leaders to Address Suicide Issue

CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — Lead­er­ship and the effects it can have to help bring down the sui­cide rate were among the top­ics the chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff dis­cussed with ser­vice­mem­bers here today.

U.S. Army Garrison Red Cloud, South Korea
U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, left, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, answers ques­tions dur­ing an all hands call with sol­diers assigned to the 2nd Infantry Divi­sion sta­tioned at U.S. Army Gar­ri­son Red Cloud, South Korea, July 21, 2010. Mullen is in South Korea with U.S. Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates and Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Clin­ton to par­tic­pate in coun­ter­part talks under­scor­ing the alliance between the two nations.
DoD pho­to by U.S. Navy Pet­ty Offi­cer 1st Class Chad J. McNee­ley
Click to enlarge

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen spoke to 2nd Infantry Divi­sion sol­diers about the stress­es the Army is under after almost nine years of war. He took time from par­tic­i­pat­ing in high-lev­el meet­ings in Seoul to meet with more than 200 sol­diers and air­men.

Last month, 32 sol­diers com­mit­ted sui­cide – a fig­ure not seen since the Viet­nam War when the Army was twice as large.

Mullen said the sui­cide issue is not going to just mag­i­cal­ly dis­ap­pear – it is a tragedy that lead­ers at all lev­els must address. “We can’t just keep read­ing the num­bers every sin­gle month. They just keep going up,” he said.

Sui­cides in the mil­i­tary are increas­ing, the chair­man said, because of the stress of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“It is the sep­a­ra­tion from our fam­i­lies, it is the lack of a sup­port struc­ture in our per­son­al lives some­times, finan­cial chal­lenges, rela­tion­ships – we know that,” Mullen said. “The one way to crack that is through lead­er­ship.”

Lead­ers have to look out for and reach out to those sol­diers in trou­ble, Mullen said.

“We’ve got a lot of pro­grams focused on that, but the only way to real­ly crack that is lead­er­ship at every sin­gle lev­el – par­tic­u­lar­ly at the E‑4, E‑5 and junior offi­cer lev­els where we know our peo­ple best,” he said.

The solu­tion goes to Mullen’s long-held and long-stat­ed posi­tion on lead­er­ship: That every­one is a leader. He said he has looked on every­one as a leader. “I don’t care how junior you are, every­body must lead,” the admi­ral said.

Good lead­er­ship will ensure a bright future for the U.S. mil­i­tary, Mullen said, not­ing, “If we lead well and do right by our peo­ple what­ev­er it is, we will be in great shape.”

“That means we’ve got to con­tin­ue to advance, we’ve got to con­tin­ue to edu­cate, we’ve got to con­tin­ue to men­tor each oth­er,” the admi­ral con­tin­ued. “What I ask is that each of you men­tor young peo­ple com­ing along. That is the strength of the orga­ni­za­tion. We take care of each oth­er, we treat peo­ple like we want to be treat­ed with dig­ni­ty and respect.”

The men and women of the mil­i­tary are under great stress from mul­ti­ple deploy­ments, but relief is com­ing, Mullen said.

The respon­si­ble draw­down in Iraq is pro­ceed­ing and the num­ber of U.S. ser­vice­mem­bers there will drop to 50,000 by the end of next month, the chair­man said That, he said, will pro­vide ser­vice­mem­bers some relief, and will go a long way to get­ting the force to a less-stress­ful rota­tion sched­ule of two years at home and one year deployed.

The cur­rent rota­tion sched­ule is around 15 months at home and a year deployed.

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