The Bayonet

Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014

SMA: Soldiers have duty to end sexual assault, suicides

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FORT BELVOIR, Va. ­­— Soldiers have a duty to protect each other from sexual assault, help a battle buddy at risk for suicide, and create a safe and respectful environment for all members, said the Army’s top enlisted adviser.

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III spoke to Soldiers Feb. 3 during a town hall meeting at Fort Belvoir, Va.

Sexual assault in the ranks, he said, erodes the trust Soldiers and the American people have placed in the Army.

“If someone is not acting within our values, within our beliefs, you have a duty to do something about it,” he said.

Soldiers must focus on ending sexual assault in the ranks by using the same determination and willpower that they do on the battlefield, he said. The Army profession, he said, demands a Soldier take action if something isn’t right.

“We have too many bystanders. If you are a bystander, you are part of the problem,” Chandler said.

The American people have entrusted the Army with their loved ones, he said, and the Army must ensure they are protected.

“When we’re given someone’s most precious gift ­­— their son or daughter, sister or brother, husband or wife — we have a duty to treat them with dignity and respect and create an environment of safety and security,” he said.

Sexual assault is damaging to the men and women who are victims of the crime, he said, and to the American people who expect the Army to protect its Soldiers and the nation.

“When we have challenges, like we have with sexual assault, we erode not only internally the trust that we had amongst each other, but we start to lose the trust of the American people for whom we serve,” he said.

There is no question that the United States Army is the “most competent force on the face of the Earth,” but there are challenges, he said.

“The American people look at us with a different perspective; they demand more from the United States Army Soldier than they do from the average citizen,” he said. “It’s part of what makes us the best Army in the world.” Every Soldier can make a difference by watching out for a battle buddy and seeking help when someone is in trouble and at risk for suicide, he said.

“We’ve had a reduction of suicides with the active component. We had an increase, however, for our Guard and Reserve components,” he said.

According to recent statistics, the Army said there were 301 suicides Army-wide in 2013 — 125 in the active Army, 117 in the Army National Guard, and 59 in the Army Reserve.

The Army had 325 suicides in 2012 — 165 in the active Army, 110 in the Army National Guard, and 50 in the Army Reserve.

A Soldier’s commitment to another Soldier makes a difference, he said.

“What I ask you to do is to continue what you’re doing,” Chandler said.

“You can save someone’s life. Think about that. You can do that. All you have to do is be that person of character who’s committed to one another,” he said.

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