June 2, 2008, Washington – The U.S. general responsible for operations in Baghdad announced today that he is taking proactive measures to prevent soldiers in his command from taking their own lives.
Soldiers are his “top priority,” Army Maj. Gen. Jeffery W. Hammond, commander of Multinational Division Baghdad and the 4th Infantry Division, told Pentagon reporters during a satellite-carried news conference from his Baghdad headquarters.
“We take proactive measures to improve soldier access to mental health care and prevent suicides and identify early symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder,” Hammond pointed out.
Hammond said he has established a suicide elimination policy that features training for leaders, rank-and-file servicemembers and behavioral health care providers. A key element of the program, he noted, is de-stigmatizing the act of seeking care for mental health issues.
Additionally, the command’s chaplains and mental health care providers are directed “to visit our combat outposts, be with our soldiers in our joint security stations — and listen,” Hammond said.
These efforts are paying off, the general observed, noting there’s been a 35-percent decrease in medical evacuations to the United States of command personnel for mental health reasons.
Emphasizing that “any suicide is one too many,” Hammond also noted that his division’s suicide rate is currently below the 2007 Army in-theater average.
The servicemembers in his command are performing well in Iraq, Hammond emphasized.
“They’re doing one heck of a job,” Hammond said of his troops’ endeavors, noting their work in Iraq is striking a blow for freedom and is helping the Iraqi people realize a better tomorrow.
“I think, clearly, that it’s an encouraging situation we have right now” in Baghdad, Hammond continued. “But, we still got a lot of work we got to get done.
“And, we’re up for it,” he added. “We’re up for it, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”