Friday, March 6, 2009

Oregon National Guard Adjutant General calls on NCOs to make safety, suicide awareness/prevention, top priorities

At the Oregon National Guard Association Conference in February, General Peter W. Chiarelli, the Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, spoke about the year of the non-commissioned officer and the role they play in the success of the Army.

In his talk, he stated Oregon had the best Command Sergeant Major in the entire army; State Command Sergeant Major Brunk Conley (see March 5th post). We are fortunate to have such a fine leader here in our state. He is a team player who is willing to lead from the front. To all the non-commissioned officers, I challenge you to follow his lead, especially given that the U.S. Army has designated 2009 as the year of the non-commissioned officer.

Non-commissioned officers are known as the backbone of the military. Warriors, leaders, trainers, mentors, and caretakers are among the words used to describe these amazing men and women of the Oregon National Guard. These individuals work together to create a team, which can accomplish any mission, assignment or task.

Right now I am calling on you, the non-commissioned officers, to make safety your top priority within our National Guard. Twenty-five Army National Guard soldiers have died in the U.S. as a result of accidents since October 2008. A majority of the deaths are contributed to motor vehicle accidents. Twenty-six percent more soldiers died as a result of accidents than died in combat over the same period. Safety must be a priority.

In every situation there is risk, but taking the extra time to assess possible risk can not be over-emphasized. Whether you’re training, off-duty or even heading to your retirement party, safety is paramount.

The next highest casualty rate is due to suicide. There is no greater overall safety risk for our military than for soldiers or airmen to hurt themselves. There are many reasons why a service member would take this course of action. Non-commissioned officers can be a major factor in preventing suicide. It is our job as leaders to get the word out and end any stigma.

There are chaplains, health services and also the Oregon reintegration team available for our guard members to use, along with mentorship and guidance from their chains of command. Make it clear! There are people and programs ready and available for each and every guard member regardless of the circumstances. Let’s work together to be apart of a solution, but most of all take care of our soldiers and airmen.

Another key issue our guard members seem to forget, or are unaware of, is the fact that safety begins at home. This means family readiness is essential to accomplishing our missions’ success. Whether you are single or married, we all need to focus on safety. When our soldiers and airmen know their families are safe, they are able to do their best, no matter what the circumstances.

There are a multitude of new programs available for our guard members and their families. Some of these programs are listed at both and I challenge every NCO to check out these programs and tell their fellow guard members and subordinates about them, especially for those who are about to deploy or returned from a deployment. These programs are for you and your families.

There is no one more professional than the non-commissioned officer. Through your efforts our soldiers and airmen are prepared to handle the challenges this year will bring. To all the soldiers and airmen in our organization, never forget you are the best that Oregon has to offer our nation.

Thank you for service and the leadership you provide everyday. You make certain Oregon is "Always Ready! Always There!"

Column by Maj. Gen. Raymond F. Rees,
The Adjutant General, Oregon Military Department

Note: This column also appears in the March 2009 issue of the Oregon Sentinel. The online publication can be found here.

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