WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Nov., 2012) — The Army has a window of opportunity that will help shape the force for the next 20 years, said Lt. Gen. Howard B. Bromberg, the Army’s G-1. The general also said challenging times were here in terms of personal stress and personal loss.
“It’s absolutely critical that we focus on resiliency and readiness because they’re definitely, inextricably linked,” Bromberg said during one of the final sessions of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C., last month.
Bromberg headed up a panel of senior leaders who gave overviews on a variety of “health of the force” concerns and highlighted plans to move the Army ahead.
“We have an executive order coming out, in the final stages now, that will precede the campaign plan,” said Bromberg, who referred to a multi-installation tour in the summer with the vice chief and other staff to assess the health of the force.
“We really focused on some of the things we saw that we could change in terms of policy and procedures — [things] that can be handled very quickly without a lot of fanfare,” he said.
Another major concern for the Army is suicide, Bromberg said. Service leaders hope to tackle the problem by improving Soldier resiliency and coping skills. Also part of the solution is learning to better identify problems with Soldiers so the service can intervene earlier.
The G-1 also addressed the Army’s Sexual Harassment/Assault and Response and Prevention program, which he said the Army was “deeply, deeply committed to fixing.”
“This is a commander’s program, and we have enabled our commanders with additional resources,” he said. Those resources include such things as crime labs, additional victim advocates and additional response coordinators. He said the Army would be hiring more civilian advocates and response coordinators this fiscal year.
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III said the “Health of the Force” trip for him was about the Army’s problems with sexual assaults, hazing and suicides and how young Soldiers and more senior NCOs viewed the problem. He was encouraged by the engaged leaders who understood their roles and responsibilities.
The Army’s “Ready and Resilient Campaign,” scheduled to roll out in January, will focus on discipline and standards. It will be tied into NCO and leader development programs, Chandler said.
Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, who also sat on the panel, said the focus of Army medicine has been shifting toward prevention, intervention and rehabilitation.
The Army has been conducting a pilot program that imbeds behavioral health providers with brigade combat teams, something Horoho said would become a standard across the Army and would also be included in the sustainment and support units.
“One of the things as we move toward prevention is instead of waiting for a Soldier to come back and deal with issues and challenges that they may have faced we now are able to use tele-behavioral health in theater and connect with some of our most forward [combat outposts and forward operating bases],” she said.
The surgeon general also noted, “eighty percent of those diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder actually heal and return to duty, so we’re looking at about 20 percent who are really going through our disability process.”
The Army has over-hired behavioral health providers and focused 136 of them on Soldiers who are going through the Integrated Disability Evaluation System.
Horoho said Army medicine has $2 billion with which to do research across many forms of health, including a variety of ways in which to possibly diagnose whether a Soldier suffered a concussion.
The general said 90 percent of the Army’s concussions occurred in garrison. Of those who suffered a concussion in Afghanistan, 97 percent were returned to duty just by following clinical practice guidelines at one of the 11 concussive care centers there.
The Army is exploring rapid bio-marker testing which may be able to determine if a Soldier has suffered a concussion. There is also a binocular vision test to see if a Soldier has suffered ocular impairment. Finally, the Army is looking at the possible benefits of a brain scope that could register findings which could then be downloaded into a smartphone.
Horoho said the Army is looking beyond taking care of those who become sick, and look toward finding ways to keep them from becoming sick.
“We’re looking at sleep, activity, and nutrition as being a performance triad,” Horoho said. “We really want to improve the health of our force and have leaders look at sleep in the same way they do water discipline and personal protective equipment.”
Danny Pummill, deputy director Compensation and Pension service under the Department of Veterans Affairs, said the VA was focusing on increasing vet access to benefits and services while ending veteran homelessness and claims backlogs by 2015.
Pummill said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki has met more than 10 times over the past 20 months with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Robert Gates, the former secretary of defense, to discuss the proper transition of service members from their services to the VA.
Pummill added that the VA was working to identify and take care of the problems veterans and their families have had in transitioning from active duty, the Guard and Reserve to civilian life and that the only way to do that was to be “inside the decision loop” with the DOD and military services.
“All of our priorities in the VA are absolutely contingent upon that warm handoff, that transition,” he said. “If we can get that right, we can lessen the impact when the service member moves from the military into their civilian life.”
Lt. Gen. Michael Ferriter, commander of Army Installation Management Command, said the Army was piloting a “total Army sponsorship” program in Hawaii, Germany, Korea and at Fort Lee, Va., for the next several months to ensure before a Soldier and his family move, they have sponsors who help them integrate into their new installation.
Ferriter also said the Army was also working on reinvigorating intramural sports programs to get Soldiers involved and engaged in healthy lifestyles.
“We’re teaming with the VA and Department of Labor for execution of the transition program ‘Soldier for Life,’ so that beginning one-year out from end of service commitment or retirement our Soldiers are counseled and then brought through a program for transition,” he said.
He said part of that transition included hiring fairs at installations and that over the last four months the Army had sponsored more than 100 such events.
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