Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Taking Care of Our Own

Greetings Shipmates,

As our Navy Reserve Sailors take the opportunity to celebrate the holiday season with family and friends, I’d like to drop anchor on the more somber subject of suicide in our armed forces.  Suicide does not just impact Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines coping with combat deployments but the entire force.  The holiday season is not exempt either.  It hits a personal note with me. 

My college roommate committed suicide on our winter break from college.  To this day I still wonder what more I could have done to interrupt that terrible trajectory he was on which ended with his taking his own life … perhaps a phone call during the break just to talk, or a visit to his house as he lived nearby.  Talking with his parents, I found they were as distraught as I was trying to make sense of this terrible and needless loss of life.     

As I look at the details surrounding the eight suicides of Navy Reserve Sailors this calendar year I’ve tried to look for common trends for life experiences which might give us something to target to prevent further suicides and attempted suicides.  There is no easy answer.  Yes, most of these Sailors were under 30 and E-5 and below, but that was the only commonality. Some had mobilized, others not.  Some were married, some divorced, some single. Unfortunately, in many cases, we will never know what really went through that person’s mind or what combination of events triggered their decision to end their life.

So what do we do to prevent this loss of life?  First, never let the Sailor get to a point where suicide is contemplated.  Try to identify stressed Sailors early and take action to get them help.  The Navy has made an enormous amount of resources available to individuals suffering from stressors, whether they are financial, relationship or of some other nature.  There is a way to get yourself or your Sailors the help they need to ease some of that stress or burden. 

Second, stand firm that there is always another option.  No matter how badly or hopeless a person feels, suicide is not the answer.  If you know your Sailors, then you know when something is not right.  If you suspect someone you know is thinking of hurting themselves, get help.  Don’t be afraid to act.  You don’t always know how many “other” signs have been conveyed to someone else and we must assume that every “sign” is the last sign.

Let’s make this year, 2013, a better year for our Sailors and our families.  Let’s focus on our troops and ourselves and keep each other alive.  Reach out, get help, intervene and speak up.  We are here to help and we do care.

I wish you all the best of Holidays and a very Happy New Year.  See you all in 2013!


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Congratulations to 2012 Reserve Family Award Winner - NOSC Tucson!

Readiness begins at home. We have to support the families at home just as much as their deployed Sailor.  NOSC Tucson gets it, and thanks to their proactive and innovative approach they have been selected as the 2012 Reserve Family Readiness Award winner.
How'd they do it? NOSC Tucson developed a family support program that takes care of Sailors the moment they walk onto the quarterdeck and equally as important, they establish 100% contact with the families.  When a Sailor deploys, NOSC Tucson continues to reach out to both the Sailor and the family so any problems are tackled sooner rather than later. This approach is a complete team effort --- from the most junior Petty Officer to the Commanding Officer --- the CO personally wrote and sent more than 387 hand-written letters of support to all mobilized Sailors and their families. That's the commitment and personal touch that drives a successful family readiness program. Well done, and well deserved NOSC Tucson!
I want to share more good news, this time from the great state of Michigan. I recently visited NOSC Battle Creek and was on hand for the ribbon cutting as they opened their new facilities. Besides the impressive new digs, I was most struck by the spirit of cooperation permeating this outstanding NOSC. Located on Ft Custer Training Center, they work hand in hand with multiple services and have established valuable partnerships. The sense of community in Battle Creek is second to none, and they are truly to be commended for fostering strong relationships both with our sister services and in the community.
Do you have any stories about how your NOSC has demonstrated a similar level of excellence either supporting deployed Sailors and their families, or building partnerships in the community? Let me know, I'd like to recognize them in this public forum.