Wednesday, May 23, 2012

When a General Officer Speaks...

Like many of you I grew up watching war films depicting the heroics that were WWII and the men and women who fought in that conflict. Front and center were the soldiers doing the impossible against all odds. Factor in some major performances by leading actors portraying famous General Officers of the period and you have the making of some incredible films.  Many of these classics will be re-run this weekend as we prepare to celebrate Memorial Day.

Fast forward nearly 50 years and the services continue to do a great job of selecting senior officers for “Flag” – a term used to denote those that have attained the rank of General (or Admiral for our Naval brethren) These officers in many cases represent the best of the best and usually have served their country for 22-25 years before attaining this rank.

There are only 11 four star generals on active duty in the U.S. Army. Fewer than one-half percent of commissioned officers make it to the top three ranks of Army general. Congress and the Department of Defense limit the total number of general officers to 302 general officers (generals, lieutenant generals, major generals and brigadier generals) in the U.S. Army.

If you have served in the armed forces or worked in close quarters with military retirees then no doubt you have run across a few General Officers in your day. Most are dynamic and well versed with a penchant for making things happen and a bit of a swagger in their step. I can list many from the Special Operations Community (past and present) as well as the Navy and the Marine Corp who I have been privileged to work with and serve under during peace and war. Great men born from a great country….

Which leads me to today’s posting about suicide and the words of a General Officer…

I will not try to imagine the frustration that comes from loosing men who have taken their own lives upon returning home from the battle but the Commanding Officer at Ft Bliss (in Texas) Major General Dana Pittard’s blunt and outrageous comments about suicide has raised eyebrows throughout the military and the US Department of Defense.  Suffice to say that many in the armed forces are upset and dismayed that a current “2 Star General” would call these warriors “selfish” in addressing the rising rate of suicides within the US Army.

I have attached a link so that you can read the article. In the end as a budding mental health practitioner focused on PTSD I can only hope that this General Officer realizes that the soldiers who serve under him at Ft. Bliss and around the globe look to his words and actions for encouragement and direction. When a General Officer fails his/her soldiers then it is time to go.

As soon as this hits the nightly news in the next day or so and with the advent of the Memorial Day weekend upon us…there will be 301 general officers on active duty in the United States Army quite quickly.  You can read the article at the following link:

Warmest Regards and Happy Memorial Day!

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