Monday, September 30, 2013

Facing the Fiscal Challenges Ahead


I’m sure you have all felt some of the effects of sequestration. But, with the new fiscal year comes even greater financial challenges for the Navy and Navy Reserve Force. This year, we face a Continuing Resolution of uncertain duration. It will be an all-hands effort to maintain mission readiness and continue to provide the operational support the Fleet has had over the past decade.

We need to be creative on how we resource this support by maximizing AT, ADT and drills to report for duty at your supported commands. First, the FY-14 Annual Training budget is funded at a similar level as last year. I assure you, if you plan your AT within the published timeline, you’ll get to perform AT. Other types of funding, such as active duty for training (ADT), inactive duty training travel (IDTT) and additional drills may be reduced during the dynamic year ahead.

So what does that mean for the Navy Reserve and the support we provide the Fleet? In a nutshell, we have to place greater importance on how we plan and prioritize the use of our available training days throughout the year. Where we go and how we use our duty days must be determined by mission priorities and critical training requirements. Active or inactive duty is performed for two reasons: readiness training or operational support. Readiness training includes schools, exercises and on the job training with an Active Component command. These types of orders can be funded using AT, ADT, ADT Schools and additional drills. For annual training orders, priority is given to billet training requirements.

Funding for operational support training is distributed to the Active Component to prioritize and execute. We foresee limitations on ADT funds this year, and are taking a conservative approach until a budget is passed. I ask our CO’s and the Sailors who man their units to maintain mobilization readiness while ensuring supported commands fulfill mission requirements to the max extent possible. As you request orders, choose the training wisely to get the most “bang for the buck.”

Navy Reserve Sailors are an essential component of the Navy Total Force. I am often told by commanders they could not do their jobs without the knowledge and skills you bring to the fight. So I am asking you to help me, and the Fleet. We want your suggestions on how best to fulfill Reserve requirements using modern business processes. If you have any suggestions, we’d love to hear them!


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Going Beyond the Statistics


We’re expanding our attack on suicide. Meaning, we’re going beyond all of the programs and training in place and looking more closely at the environmental factors that enable people to complete suicides. What we’ve discovered is that easy access to lethal means is the number one risk to someone with suicidal ideations. While this issue has been politicized in recent discussions by society at large, what we want are results, so this is an analysis of fact without regard to ideology.

Building awareness and resiliency, and providing readily available crisis care are proven methods of reducing the number of suicides, but these only take us so far. We’ve made a dent in the number of suicides DoD-wide, but even one is still too many.

Let’s look at the statistics. According to a University of Houston study of 153 survivors of nearly lethal attempts made by young people, approximately 70 percent of suicides occur within one hour of thought and 24 percent occur within five minutes. So the overwhelming majority of suicides happen soon after contemplating the act. Next, take into account that 74 percent of individuals who complete suicide showed no signs of mentally illness before the act.  Finally, approximately 75 percent of suicides in the military are committed with firearms and two-thirds of those are not issued by the military. These are statistics that get my attention. 

The easy availability of the means to commit suicide plays a significant role. Many suicides are the tragic result of a temporary mind set combined with easy access to a firearm.  

I’m not advocating for changes to laws dealing with the sale and background screening required to purchase a gun. The topic of this post is the difference shipmates and loved ones can make by taking action when an individual is troubled.  With the statistics above in mind, doesn’t it make sense to acknowledge the potential threat early and take the necessary action to avoid an irrevocable decision later?  We encourage bystanders to intervene and ask for the car keys from those incapacitated by alcohol.  Why shouldn’t a shipmate or family member sit down with a Sailor in serious distress and discuss limiting access to firearms if they are present in the home?  Come to an agreement to temporarily store them off-base, on base or lock them down.

Simply being honest with ourselves and acknowledging our lives may be in turmoil is the first step. The next step is to be responsible and limit access to your guns until your situation returns to normal. It may be the next day, it could be a month – only you and your loved ones know. But removing the threat just in case things go from bad to worse, as happens in life, is not only being responsible, it’s being smart.

Our challenge is to raise awareness of the option to limit access and let our shipmates know there is no shame in admitting their life stressors have accumulated to the breaking point.  Suicide is never the answer and the impact on the loved ones left behind is disastrous.  It’s time to stamp out the scourge of suicides from our Navy.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

September is Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month

Greetings Shipmates,

September is Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month.  As you well know, this is a topic which affects all of us, and unfortunately, is an event that happens too often in our Armed Forces and in our communities. Even one loss of life is too many, and today I want to talk to you about what we can do, as leaders, peers, Sailors and friends, to prevent this tragedy from happening. 

We are engaged in an active campaign to prevent our Sailors from taking their own lives, and I do believe that our communications and training on suicide prevention and suicide awareness is having an effect.  Some of you might have noticed an increase in the number of service members reporting depression, hopelessness and suicidal ideation.  Does this mean more people are having thoughts of suicide than in the past?  Or does it mean that more people are coming forward and talking about it?  I believe it is the latter.

It tells me that more people are asking questions and really looking at their Sailors, and that our Sailors are more likely to ask for help when they are experiencing emotional and psychological turmoil.  We have experienced a cultural change in how we perceive suicide, depression, overall mental health and the effects life events have on a person. 

We have not been able to pull that common thread that indicates a person’s true mental state.  There is no perfect list, or flow chart, or recipe of factors you can use to predict with certainty whether or not someone will take their own life.   
What we can do is pay attention.  We can ask questions and we can intervene and get that person help.  We need to help that person get beyond the situation, because, in most cases, the psychological state of that person is temporary.  It’s a decision made in a temporary frame of mind with permanent consequences.  But, if you can get a person past that moment, then you have given them a chance to get the help they need.   

We have the power and resources to prevent suicide, but we must all be engaged.  Know your people, know what’s going on in their lives and make sure they know that you care.  Promote the resources we have, such as our regional Psychological Health Outreach Program (PHOP) representatives, and encourage each other to speak up when you or someone else is experiencing depression, despair or thoughts of suicide.    Together we can foster a climate where people get the help they need, so they can be around to experience the opportunities of the future.