By CATRINA FRANCIS
Gold Standard Senior Staff Writer
On March 12, the Army kicked off a one-stop program which provides Soldiers and Family members with resources that are related to Soldier resilience and readiness.
Maj. Gen. Jeff Smith, the Cadet Command and Fort Knox commander, said the Readiness and Resilient campaign is an effort to synchronize the multiple efforts and programs that are across the installation.
“Historically we had many different programs, and not all have been connected and certainly not all have been synchronized,” explained Smith. “They probably could have been (synchronized) to provide overall support for our Soldiers and their Families. I think one of the key things this campaign will do is integrate and synchronize, that’s probably first and foremost. We think the need for resiliency builds on the physical, emotional and physical aspects of resiliency.
“The campaign itself aims to reduce suicide, suicide ideations, sexual harassment (and) sexual assault, hazing, substance abuse (and) domestic violence, the things we all know are happening across the Army for sure and to a lesser degree at Fort Knox. This campaign will reduce or eliminate these challenges that are out there. That’s essentially why we need to have a campaign and why we are supportive of the Army’s campaign and we are writing our own to be implemented around here soon.”
Kevin Corbin, the Fort Knox Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program manager, pointed out that an executive order was developed after 12 years of conflict.
“Negative trends in suicides, alcohol and drug abuse and at-risk behaviors have been detrimental in overall readiness,” said Corbin. “If you are putting a little in each area (it) won’t have a great impact if one falls by the wayside. If you use the tools (they) will help you become resilient. This campaign approaches structure policies and develops a way ahead conducive to the way the military operates.”
Smith noted that the overall effort of the campaign will integrate and synchronize. For example if a Soldier has an alcohol problem someone needs to see if there are possible domestic violence aspects of the Soldier that ASAP may not be tracking.
“I think the synchronization and cross communication between the program managers whether it’s SHARP (Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention) or ASAP program manager, we are trying to open up a dialogue of communication from the different program managers,” Smith said. “The aim of the campaign is to see that there may be connections to prevent those other more severe incidents from occurring— which we know—build on themselves, not often, (but) in some cases (it does).
“This has been going on for some time. Of course we have programs (such as) sponsorship, SHARP (and) 20 or so different programs out there. Many of these programs have been going on for years, if not decades. The recent effort to bring a holistic approach to synchronize is fairly new.”
Corbin said the program is going to always be a part of the military, it just has a new name.
“We have to make this as easy as possible,” he said. “All the programs are there to reduce stress (or) drug and alcohol abuse (which will help) resiliency across the board.”
Smith added that he’s now holding several different boards and bringing leadership of these organizations together so they can cross share and hear what other program managers are doing.
“Leaders of these organizations (are) at the table together to allow the cross talk to occur,” he said. “That piece is fairly new within the last year. We are starting to get a little headway on it right now.”
Although the campaign’s aim is helping build ready and resilient Soldiers, Smith said the goal is to reduce or eliminate these problems.
“We would obviously like to eliminate it to the extent that we can,” Smith said. “We have had our share of incidents here on Fort Knox. We had several suicides last year (and) we’ve had a number of domestic violence acts in the last year. We’ve (also) had several sexual assaults in the last year. We know that it can and does happen here at Fort Knox. Part of our effort here is to put systems in place to identify this to get leaders engaged at every level which is part of our program.”
Smith said programs such as the First Sergeant Barracks Program has allowed leadership back into the barracks. He added that having leadership in the barracks helps prevent sexual assaults during certain vulnerable times when the assaults tend to take place.
“This is about Army readiness to our organizations (and) having a force that is emotionally, physically and psychologically healthy (and) the production that they do at work is going to be better,” explained Smith.
Smith pointed out that last week’s Suicide Prevention Month kickoff will bring suicide prevention to the forefront. The guest speaker was Clark Flatt from the Jason Foundation who lost his son to suicide a decade ago.
“When you look at suicidal ideations or suicides (there are) almost always indicators that were present,” he said. “If we had been listening or if we had (dug) a little bit deeper or taken action some of the indicators that are out there, maybe we would have one less suicide.
“I think anything we can do to prevent that and get ahead of the leading indicators on suicide ideations or suicide is really the key. The more we can prevent and eradicate the indicators the result will be fewer incidents.”
Even though these programs aren’t new to the Army, Smith said he’s been in the Army for almost 30 years and he couldn’t recall a time when a campaign of this nature would not have been helpful. He added that the resources have always been there, but resources alone are not enough.
“It takes leaders, it takes synchronization of programs, it takes public awareness which is why I want the public more aware on this issue,” said Smith. “It takes public awareness. Just because we have a program doesn’t mean Soldiers and Families know about the program.
“Leaders have to actively and proactively talk about the programs we have. It’s not enough to tell a Family member that we have a SHARP program or a sponsorship program somebody needs to be sitting them down. It needs to be their leadership. Leadership needs to talk to them.
Smith believes as the campaign becomes more familiar to Soldiers and Family members they will know what programs are available.
“(We want to) make sure an organization, the 19 different tenants on Fort Knox, are advocating for our Soldiers, civilians and Family members,” he said.