140 Suicides in 2012 Sets New Record; DoD’s Top General Condemns Pittard’s Comments as “Extremely Inappropriate”

After waiting more than a week to provide any official comment, America’s most senior military officer, General Martin Dempsey, finally responded publicly to remarks by a junior Army general commanding 33,000 soldiers at Fort Bliss, Texas who described suicide by soldiers as a “selfish act.” Dempsey made the comments at the same time the DoD revealed data confirming the 2012 rate of suicide throughout all the four military branches has never been higher. To date, there have been 140 suicides compared with 122 this time last year, also a record high. (DoD)

Army General’s Blog Post on Suicides Draws Sharp Rebuke From Joint Chiefs Chairman

by Gene Rector

WRWR, June 1, 2012

A blog post by an Army major general calling suicide a “selfish act” has drawn a sharp rebuke from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey.

According to a Pentagon news release, Maj. Gen. Dana J.H. Pittard wrote the comments after attending a January memorial service for one of his soldiers who took his own life. He reportedly added that he was “personally fed up with soldiers who are choosing to take their own lives so that others can clean up their mess.”

Dempsey told reporters Thursday that he disagreed “in the strongest possible terms” with Pittard’s characterization of suicide.

“I’ve been in contact with Army senior leadership and know they share my concerns,” Dempsey further stated.

Pittard, commander of the 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss, Texas, retracted the comments last week, the Pentagon reported, expressing his “deepest sincerity and respect towards those whom I have offended” and pointing out that suicide is a “very complex issue that plagues not just the military but society overall.”

The Pentagon release said 140 suicides have been reported among all service branches in 2012 compared to 122 this time last year and 110 in 2010. Robins Air Force Base has reported one suicide this year — a civilian employee in the 402nd Maintenance Wing.

“Among service members who have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, more have died by suicide than by enemy action,” the Pentagon statement pointed out.

Dempsey said senior military leaders in particular are “accountable for helping the entire profession, the entire force, understand the issues.”

He said Pittard’s comments “didn’t help, but hurt our efforts to understand. They added another layer of confusion.”

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