Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Pentagon Provides Update on Hurricane Irma Relief Operations

WASHINGTON, Sept. 12, 2017 — The Defense Department has initiated operations in Florida in response to Hurricane Irma and also continued response operations in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, according to a DoD statement issued today.

DoD expects to complete evacuating U.S. citizens from St. Martin and is coordinating the evacuation of U.S. citizens from the British Virgin Islands, the statement said. Joint Task Force-Leeward Islands is arriving in the eastern Caribbean today to start providing humanitarian assistance, to include water, sanitation, logistics support, movement of relief personnel and humanitarian commodities.

DoD Hurricane Irma Response Details

-- There are approximately 10,000 DoD personnel supporting response operations in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

-- The amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge, the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp, the dock landing ship USS Oak Hill, and dry cargo ship USNS McLean are conducting relief operations in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The SS WRIGHT is loading Federal Emergency Management Agency containers and is scheduled to depart for St. Thomas.

-- Marines from the 26th MEU battalion landing team conducting logistical and support operations in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

-- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is assessing the Schneider Regional Medical Center – the principal medical facility on St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. The Corps of Engineers is also coordinating the shipment of a 750-kilowatt generator to St. Thomas to assist in restarting the island's power plant.

-- U.S. Transportation Command will lift the 602nd Area Medical Support Company to St. Thomas with primary and emergency patient care capability.

Florida Operations

-- There are approximately 20,700 DoD personnel supporting response operations in the eastern United States.

-- U.S. Northern Command is postured to conduct relief operations from the sea with aircraft from the USS Abraham Lincoln, USS Farragut, USS Iwo Jima, USS New York, and the USS San Jacinto. The Farragut will arrive off the Florida coast tomorrow. The Lincoln’s helicopters airlifted supplies to forces opening Marathon Airport in the Florida Keys.

-- The Army has High Water Trucks en route to Florida from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and fuel and supplies will be moved to search and rescue base airfields.

-- Army Corps of Engineers power teams, debris removal teams, temporary roofing teams and port survey personnel are in place in Florida and Georgia. The Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard are working to reopen ports -- focusing on Port Everglades and Tampa.

-- The Defense Logistics Agency is developing joint solutions to support Florida first responder fuel requirements.

Army Operations

-- According to Army officials, the current Total Army response for Hurricane Irma is more than 17,600 soldiers and U. S. Army Corps of Engineers civilians in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the continental United States.

-- The Army has 38 aircraft, more than 740 trucks, and more than 80 generators already committed to relief efforts. The Army has more than 100 aircraft, almost 600 generators, 150 boats, and more than 3,200 trucks on standby to support response efforts if called upon.

-- Army National Guard soldiers from Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are currently on State Active Duty status and are either responding, or prepared to respond to each governor’s priorities. Additionally, National Guard units in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina are conducting routine inactive duty training, which they will utilize to prepare for a Hurricane Irma response, if required.

-- The Corps of Engineers is already working in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico to assist with power restoration efforts and have teams on stand-by to assist in Florida if/when needed. The Corps is also monitoring conditions at the Herbert Hoover Dike (Lake Okeechobee) and will continue to provide updates.

-- Army Reserve officers are assigned with FEMA Regions II, IV, and V Headquarters to assist with providing expert military advice on storm response efforts.

-- Fort Jackson, South Carolina, is providing shelter to 128 personnel displaced by the hurricane and are still accepting persons seeking shelter.
-- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has six divisions and six districts activated to support federal response operations, with more than 400 deployed personnel at key response nodes and 158 personnel manning key communication nodes.

Suicide Prevention Month: Timely Actions Can Save People’s Lives

By John Reese, U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart

STUTTGART, Germany, Sept. 13, 2017 — September is Suicide Prevention Month, and with it comes greater awareness that it's possible there are friends, comrades and family members who may be considering that irreversible decision.

Someone who is considering suicide may display a number of behavioral indicators, according to officials with the Employee Assistance Program at U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart. Some are direct, they said, while others are subtle enough to be missed until it is too late.

The garrison's EAP and Army Substance Abuse Program have teamed up this month to enhance suicide prevention awareness, beginning with a resource table at the Panzer Kaserne post exchange.

"This is a time for sharing and caring to support service members, veterans and civilian families who have lost their loved ones," said Kaffie Clark, EAP coordinator here. "Volunteers will be giving out yellow ribbons at the Panzer Kaserne front gate to remember our loved ones, our soldiers and those who lost their lives."

Suicide Statistics

Clark and Cinda Robison, ASAP prevention coordinator, have access to the most recent Army suicide statistics, giving them a bigger picture of the severity of military suicides.

Robison shared a story about meeting a young soldier who was behaving in a peculiar manner, allowing others again and again to pass her in a line when she was already halfway through a common task. When Robison commented on the soldier's patience, she opened up and explained how a recent change in duty station and other factors had caused extreme exhaustion. Robison became concerned.

"Sometimes it isn't the usual signs -- giving away valuables, putting affairs in order, loss of enthusiasm and hope, et cetera -- when a person is considering suicide," Robison explained.

A scholarly study sponsored in part by the Army and published in the Journal of American Medical Association, July 26, 2017, found that previous suicides in a unit increased the chances of a soldier committing suicide, particularly with smaller units. The study used information from the "Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Service Members." It focused on "all active-duty, regular U.S. Army enlisted soldiers who attempted suicide from Jan. 1, 2004, through Dec. 31, 2009."

In that time frame, of the 9,512 enlisted suicide attempters … 86.4 percent were male, 68.4 percent were 29 years or younger, 62.2 percent were younger than 21 years when entering the army, 59.8 percent were white, 76.6 percent were high school educated, and 54.8 percent were currently married. Almost three-quarters, or 72.2 percent, had more than two years of service, 40.3 percent had never deployed, and 76.7 percent were assigned to an occupation other than combat arms."

The highly-detailed study indicated the risk of suicide attempts among soldiers is influenced by a history of suicide attempts within a soldier's unit.

"Attention to unit characteristics by leadership and service professionals may be a component in suicide attempt reduction efforts,” according to part of the study’s conclusion.


Suicide disproportionately affects veterans, Clark and Robison noted. They pointed to a Veterans Affairs’ statistic from 2013 on the suicide rate among veterans. Four years ago, veterans were committing suicide at a rate of 22 per day, or one every 65 minutes. As shocking as that number was, that study represented only 21 states; the two largest and fifth largest states didn't provide data to the VA for the survey.

Common knowledge from the 2013 report indicates the number of 22 per day didn't reflect the actual number of veterans who died by suicide, Clark said.

"It's huge, the discrepancy," Robison added. "It could've been as high as 35 suicides per day."

Since 2013, the number of recorded veteran suicides has slowed a little. A VA report in 2016 using analysis from 2014 put the average at 20 each day, or one every 72 minutes.

Physician Assistant’s Experience

On July 26, 2017 -- the same day the JAMA study was published -- CNN interviewed retired Army physician assistant Maj. Marc Raciti, who experienced post-traumatic stress disorder and came very close to hanging himself after five deployments.

"I did lose three medics after coming back from Iraq to suicide, which exasperated my PTSD, but mine is of survivor's guilt for the ones I could not save," Raciti said.

In August, 2017, VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin spoke about a new and disturbing trend of veterans coming to a VA facility to commit suicide.

"There are a number of reasons [for coming to the VA to commit suicide], not all of which I completely understand," Shulkin said, adding one of the reasons is "they don't want their families to have to discover them. They know that if they're discovered at a VA, that we will handle it in an appropriate way and take care of them."

Helping to prevent suicides in the Stuttgart military community is everyone's job, said Clark and Robison. As Stuttgart is a joint service community with many civilians and family members, suicide prevention should be practiced by everyone regardless of branch, age or veteran status.

"To help bring awareness, yellow ribbons will be passed out during September," Clark said. "After that, there will be an Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training workshop offered Sept. 26-27."

Deputy Defense Secretary, Bosnian Defense Minister Meet at Pentagon

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Sept. 13, 2017 — Deputy Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan met with Bosnia-Herzegovina Defense Minister Marina PendeŇ° yesterday in the Pentagon, Shanahan’s spokesperson Navy Cmdr. Sarah Higgins said in a readout following the meeting.

Shanahan expressed appreciation for Bosnia-Herzegovina's ongoing contributions to NATO efforts in Afghanistan and in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Higgins said. The leaders also discussed Bosnia-Herzegovina's completion of its defense review, progress in defense reforms and U.S. support of Bosnia-Herzegovina's path to NATO membership, she said.
Both agreed to maintain continued dialogue on shared security interests, Higgins said.