PITTARD: “We Have Just About the Lowest Suicide Rate in the Army”

Fewer Suicides at Fort Bliss

Military battles ‘epidemic’ of soldier deaths

by Robert Gray
El Paso Inc, Aug 6, 2012

Fort Bliss has one of the lowest soldier suicide rates in the Army, with fewer soldiers there taking their lives this year than at any other major U.S. Army post, according to data from the Defense Department.

ABOUT FACE? Maj Gen Dana Pittard, base commander at Fort Bliss, TX, shakes hands with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Pittard says the rate of soldiers taking their own lives is the lowest in the Army among large bases like Fort Bliss. Part of the credit for the reduced suicide rate, Pittard and his advisors say, is a new suicide prevention training program which Pittard says will be required of every soldier on Fort Bliss by October. Pittard made national headlines earlier this year when he chastised suicidal soldiers, ordering them to “Be an adult, act like an adult, and deal with your real-life problems like the rest of us.” Pittard made the comments on an Army blog after attending a memorial for a soldier who shot himself in front of his children on Christmas eve 2011. (DoD)

Top military brass are trying to contain what has become a soldier suicide “epidemic” in the armed forces. Nearly every day this year, a service member has taken his or her life, including 89 soldiers in the U.S. Army, according to the Pentagon.

“This is an epidemic. Something is wrong,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently told members of the House of Representatives.

But at Fort Bliss the suicide numbers are down, and the post’s commander has positioned himself at the forefront of the Army’s efforts to end soldier suicide, drawing national attention that’s been both flattering and critical.

“We have just about the lowest suicide rate in the Army here at Fort Bliss, but one suicide is too many,” Pittard said at a recent media event.

Of the nearly 30,000 active-duty soldiers stationed at Fort Bliss, six have died in preventable deaths, including four by suicide.

That compares to nine suicides at Fort Hood, which is larger than Fort Bliss, with 48,111 active-duty soldiers, and 10 suicides at Fort Campbell, with 30,438 soldiers, according to Pentagon statistics obtained by El Paso Inc.

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