Top Official at Fort Bliss Explains Reasons for Presidential Visit
by Ric Dupont
KFOX TV, Aug. 30, 2012
BLOGBACK: Fort Bliss’ Commander, Maj Gen Dana Pittard, made national headlines when he commented publicly on his Army blog about military suicides, chastising harshly suicidal soldiers in his command. “I am personally fed up with Soldiers who are choosing to take their own lives so that others can clean up their mess. Be an adult, act like an adult, and deal with your real-life problems like the rest of us,” Pittard said Jan. 18, 2012. Pittard later retracted the statement. Seven months later — after Pittard received intense backlash in the media from mental health experts, family members and veterans advocates over his comments — he unexpectedly was awarded the LivingWorks Community of Excellence Award for leading soldiers at Fort Bliss to what he has claimed is the “lowest suicide rate” in the Army. LivingWorks is Canadian-based company specializing in commercial suicide intervention-training programs.
EL PASO, Texas — Commanding Gen. Dana Pittard spoke exclusively to KFOX14 News about the reason President Barack Obama is visiting El Paso Friday.
This will be the president’s third visit to El Paso. He came to Fort Bliss in Aug. 2010, and again in May, 2011. On that visit, Obama landed on post and spoke to soldiers briefly before heading to the Chamizal National Memorial to talk about immigration.
Pittard said the president is expected to talk about sequestration – a congressional debt-reduction process that could cut about $500 billion out of the defense budget.
But soldier well-being and the problem of soldier suicides seem to be the big issues. Pittard said the president wants Fort Bliss to answer questions that can help soldiers everywhere else.
“Why does Fort Bliss have such a low suicide rate?” Pittard asked.
“We have the lowest number of suicides of any major installation in the Army. So we’re really doing some neat things here. And (Obama) and his team are coming to find out about that.”
Pittard said the visit is a big deal for the post and the soldiers on it. ”We’re just proud to host a president,” Pittard said.
“He’s come every year since I’ve been here, so I expect to see him in 2013, also.”
Of course, KFOX14 News will have full team coverage of the president’s visit Friday.
KFOX will post updates on social media and have the entire event live-streamed on kfoxtv.com.
Read this story and view video of Maj Gen Pittard interview at its source: