NCOs crucial to suicide prevention,
|By Claudia Roulo, American Forces Press Service
KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. —The senior enlisted advisor to the
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said that he can’t succeed at his
job without the help of enlisted servicemembers, and he called on
noncommissioned officers (NCO) to know their troops well enough to head
Air Force and Marine Corps first sergeants assigned to Keesler Air Force
Base met with Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia and talked about
several challenges faced by the enlisted force.
“You have a hard job,” he told the noncommissioned officers. “I wish I
could give you a pay raise.”
Over breakfast, Battaglia answered questions about suicide- prevention
efforts and whether the position of senior enlisted advisor to the
chairman would become an enduring one.
The fact that the military suicide rate is lower than that of the
population at large shouldn’t be considered a compliment or accolade,
“We don’t use society as a bar,” he noted, adding that instead, the
military should stand as a model for society. The military
suicide-prevention effort will succeed only if suicide is taken out of
the decision-making process for servicemembers, Battaglia said. “This is
easier said than done,” he acknowledged, but he told the first sergeants
they are up to the challenge.
“You really have to know your folks,” he said. “I just can’t
Battaglia said he recently came to the realization that “maybe we’re
studying the wrong thing” in the suicide-prevention effort.
Instead of studying what the military is doing wrong, he said, he is now
focusing on what it’s doing right.
For example, he told the NCOs, the suicide rate in U.S. Forces Korea is
nearly zero. Discussions with the senior enlisted leaders there have
shown him that command climate and operational focus are essential tools
in battling suicide.
As to whether the job of senior enlisted advisor to the chairman
continues to exist after he leaves it, Battaglia told the servicemembers
it depends on how he performs. The position is resonating well
throughout the force, he said, adding that he hopes it continues.