Story by Gary Sheftick, Army News Service
Edited by Erin Wittkop, Defense Media Activity
Army Secretary John McHugh signed a directive Feb. 4, stating that programs from resilience training to suicide prevention be part of a wide-ranging “Ready and Resilient Campaign” plan, which will launch later this month.
During a press conference at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., McHugh said he’s looked at 47 recommendations from an Army-wide Behavioral Health Task Force, which he stood up last year.
While McHugh said findings of the task force have not yet been staffed and are not yet ready for release, he did divulge one of the recommendations: that all programs dealing with resilience come under a single command authority, the G-1 or Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel.
“They felt the disparity of command authority over all of these various programs tended to diffuse things rather than make them more accessible,” McHugh said of the Behavioral Health Task Force recommendations. He explained that the abundance of programs, and redundancy of services, could sometimes be confusing, making it difficult for commanders or soldiers to know where to turn.
In order to eliminate that confusion, McHugh signed a memorandum Monday directing that “multiple efforts and programs” be integrated and synchronized under the Army Ready and Resilient Campaign plan, or R2C. R2C programs will include those aimed at eliminating sexual assault and sexual harassment, bullying and hazing, substance abuse, domestic violence, and any stigmas or barriers associated with seeking help, according to the memo.
McHugh charged Under Secretary of the Army Joseph Westphal, Ph.D., and Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III to finalize plans for the campaign and present them to him by Feb. 15. The campaign “must be a top priority for all Army leaders,” the secretary said.
The R2C will make improvements to the Integrated Disability Evaluation System, known as IDES, and shorten case-processing times, according to the memorandum. And it will improve methods to help leaders understand high-risk behaviors that could lead to suicide.
The campaign will make resilience training a key part of all professional military education, according to the establishing memo. And it will promote healthy lifestyles that are based on the triad of physical fitness, nutrition and sleep.
Finally, the campaign will strive to eliminate stigma that might keep soldiers from seeking treatment for post-traumatic stress or brain injuries.
“We’re trying to teach soldiers it’s OK to reach out for help,” McHugh said. “You don’t just do that in a class or two to a young soldier. It really has to be a career-long progression.”
The R2C will seek to institutionalize education to promote resilience and build it into professional military instruction at various levels of a soldier’s career, McHugh said.
“We’re trying to instill into virtually every level of training, it’s your responsibility to take care of your buddy,” he said.
McHugh lamented the record 325 suicides committed by soldiers last year. “All of us in the Army are deeply concerned about this,” he said.
His announcement was made at Joint Base Lewis-McChord because his Army-wide Behavioral Health Task Force review was initiated as a result of Soldiers and veterans there having post-traumatic stress disorders diagnoses downgraded last year at Madigan Army Medical Center.
McHugh said the problems stemmed from a “forensic diagnosis” method which is no longer used in the Army. Forensic diagnosis is a “legitimate” procedure, McHugh said, but one that analysis found to be “not workable” in the Army.