Increasing Strength and Resilience in the Army

Article excerpt

The Army is stretched but demonstrates remarkable resilience after nine years of war. We are focused on sustaining our force and reducing the stress on soldiers, families and civilians. In the last year, the Army took advantage of our increased end strength to better manage the force, implemented initiatives to bolster the resiliency of soldiers and families, and prepared Army civilians for the effects of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC). The Army now looks forward to greater progress in each of these areas to ultimately restore balance to the force.

Staffing the Force

Army force generation allows the Army to rotate units on a sustainable and predictable cycle. Army Chief of Staff GEN George W. Casey Jr. has stated that increasing soldiers' time at home between deployments is the key to restoring balance. A 2009 Army Study confirmed something that we intuitively knew: A soldier needs two to three years to recover from a one-year deployment. Since then, we lengthened dwell time from 12 to 18 months. The additional time allows officers and noncommissioned officers to attend professional military education courses, and, more importanti}·, it gives soldiers a longer period at home with family. Our goal for dwell time is two years at home for active component soldiers - four years for reserve component soldiers - for each year deployed; most soldiers will be on this schedule by the end of fiscal year (FY) 2011. Ultimately, we plan for three years of dwell for the active component and five years for reserve components.

Reducing Stress on the Force

The Army has taken significant steps in reducing stress on the force, but there is still much more work to do. We are working aggressively to reverse the tragic rise in suicides. In November 2009, the Army partnered with the National Institute of Mental Health to launch the largest study of suicide prevention ever conducted with military personnel. This five-year study will incorporate existing behavioralhealth data, survey 90,000 soldiers and include a longitudinal analysis of 100,000 recruits. The Army is also actively implementing the comprehensive soldier fitness (CSF) program. CSF is a holistic fitness program for soldiers, family members and Army civilians focused on five dimensions of strength: physical, emotional, social, spiritual and familial. As part of the program, the Army is training master resiliency trainers to teach the skills necessary to face life's challenges.

Through the sexual harassment/assault response and prevention (SHARP) program, the Army continues working toward eliminating sexual assault and harassment within our force. Additional attornevs, special investigators and victim advocates now strengthen our prosecution capabilities. The Army also encourages more soldiers to report sexual assault, the most underreported crime in America, by allowing victims to seek medical care and advocacy services without automatically triggering a criminal investigation. A pilot program with U.S. Army Europe will help identify the resources necessary to expand this restricted reporting to DoD civilians, family members and contractors who have medical facility privileges. The Army also plans to expand the SHARP program down to the platoon level of all units and revise aspects of our lifecycle training to raise awareness and promote prevention among soldiers and leaders at all grade levels.

Another indication of stress within the force is substance abuse. The Army is actively hiring counselors to meet the needs of our soldiers who seek care. The number of counselors will increase from 272 this May to 562 by FY 2012. The Army established this target based on the results of our confidential alcohol treatment and education pilot (CATEP), which ran from July 2009 to March 2010. CATEP allows eligible soldiers at three installations to confidentially refer themselves to alcohol counseling without fearing professional consequences. Based on the success of the program, the Secretary of the Army decided to continue CATEP at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; Fort Richardson, Alaska; and Fort Lewis, Wash. …