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Marne 7 Sends: ‘Health of the Soldiers’ during deployment a top priority

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POSTED: August 3, 2012 4:45 p.m.
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Command Sgt. Maj. Edd Watson 3rd ID CSM

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Fort Stewart, Ga.

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As the division headquarters moves closer toward deployment, I wanted to address all the Dog Face Soldiers, leaders and their Families, drawing attention to a number of issues.

Dog Face Soldiers have undergone months of training leading up to this deployment. Expertly trained and battle-ready, you have proven time and time again why the Third Infantry Division has the best Soldiers the U.S. Army has to offer.

Most of you took some much-deserved leave prior to your departure. It’s important to have fun and enjoy your time away from the flagpole! Take full advantage of that time with your loved ones. Do everything you can to build upon and strengthen those relationships. Your Families carry the torch while you’re gone, shouldering additional responsibilities. Make sure finances are in order, all medical needs are met. Ensure that emotional “bank” is filled, because the rigors of deployment will make withdrawals daily.

There are a number of first-time "deployers" within the ranks. The average day during a deployment is anything but. Soldiers will not be able to get in their cars and drive to their homes or barracks. They will not be afforded the luxury of “getting away” for the weekend. Hours will be long and hard, and sleep deprivation is a possibility. The 24-hour day as you know it may be divided into 16/6/2: 16-hour work days, six hours of sleep, and two hours of personal time, be it physical training or talking to loved ones back home.

Noncommissioned officers: Discipline and standards will always lead the day, regardless of where you serve. Along with deployments come leadership challenges. Soldiers will get frustrated; they will miss their Families and the creature comforts of home. Every day may feel like Groundhog Day.

There may come a time where patience is exhausted and tempers are flared; situations like this can be a true test in resiliency, or erode the bonds within a team. Do not allow a situation to get so far out of hand that the team implodes. No one gets better from that. It deteriorates who you are. Encourage your Soldiers to participate in activities that will keep them engaged and focused, but will also enable them to minimize stress.

Maintaining our physical fitness remains one of our basic Soldier responsibilities. A physically-fit, “flat-belly warrior” is more focused, more energized and, literally, fit to fight. It’s also great in promoting team building and esprit de corps.

Every day, leaders across the Army strive to eliminate challenges. Three in particular continue to infiltrate our ranks: hazing, sexual harassment/assault and suicide.

Army Regulation 600-20 defines hazing as “… any conduct whereby one military member or employee, regardless of Service or rank, unnecessarily causes another military member or employee, regardless of Service or rank, to suffer or be exposed to an activity that is cruel, abusive, oppressive, or harmful.” Sexual harassment – unwanted, unwelcome gestures communicated verbally, non-verbally, or through physical contact – degenerate from the good order and discipline that makes a great Dog Face Soldier. The act of sexual assault fractures teamwork, diminishes trust and hinders combat readiness. Suicide prevention is everyone’s responsibility. Do not turn a blind eye to a Soldier in need. Ask your Soldier if he/she has thoughts of harming himself. Show the Soldier you Care, being careful to avoid criticism and judgment. Offer to Escort the Soldier to see a chaplain, or behavioral health counselor. This, in turn, helps to reduce the stigma. More importantly: The Soldier may be upset with you at first, but it is much better than the alternative outcome.

We must be increasingly cognizant when countering these adverse actions. Leaders must never cease in enforcing standards and policies, likewise educating their Soldiers on what those policies are. It is the leader’s job to protect the Force – not just physically, but also the mental health of that Force.

Noncommissioned officers are also responsible for the daily operations of their Soldiers. Check on your Soldiers daily. The optempo runs much faster in a deployed environment, so you and your Soldiers may be pulled in different directions at any given time. Trust that they can execute in the absence of orders, but it is still your job to give them the proper guidance and instruction.

Discipline and standards do not go away because you deploy. Challenge your Soldiers and your peers to maintain those standards. Be the example you want them to follow. Know your Soldiers’ needs. Do the right thing – now and always.

It is a privilege to serve in the greatest division of the greatest Army in the world.

 

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