JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –
The U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence, or MEDCoE, conducted it's inaugural Ready and Resilience Council, or R2C, meeting Sept. 21 at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston.
The meeting, chaired by Maj. Gen. Dennis LeMaster, MEDCoE commander, consisted of key leaders from all subordinate commands throughout MEDCoE down to the company level, key special staff, and various Joint Base San Antonio mission partners who play a role in combating organizational issues and concerns that affect Soldier readiness.
The event was held in Blesse Auditorium using control measures like social distancing and masks to mitigate the risk of COVID-19. To kick off the meeting, Col. Caryn Vernon, MEDCoE G3, outlined why the R2C construct plays a vital role in the readiness of our Soldiers and the success of our training mission.
“The MEDCoE Ready and Resilience Council is an important entity that will advocate for the health, safety, and readiness of the total force,” Vernon said. “This group of leaders, some resident to the MEDCoE and others from across the installation, will identify needs and concerns across the MEDCoE, make recommendations, share best practices and assess the strengths and weaknesses of our current health promotion initiatives and programs.”
The focus of the MEDCoE R2C is on the Army’s “three corrosives”: suicide, racism/extremism, and sexual assault/harassment.
“The group will examine how the health, readiness, and spiritual fitness of the force lessen the effects of the corrosives and determine the best ways to combat them before they may erode the organization,” Vernon added.
The intent of the inaugural R2C meeting was to introduce the mission, purpose, current proposed membership and general construct of the council. Organizational leadership at all levels was afforded the opportunity to see the importance that is being placed by Army senior leaders on issues and trends surrounding the “three corrosives.”
Various installation programs and mission partners also shared how they can help play a role in combating the unit corrosives. There were presentations from the JBSA Military and Family Readiness Center, Vogel Resiliency Center, Army Wellness Center, R2 Performance Center, Family Advocacy, Suicide Prevention, Substance Abuse Prevention, and Risk Reduction programs. Brooke Army Medical Center Behavioral Health Services also spoke about the services they provide.
Vernon explained that the proposed attendees for the R2C meetings, which are expected to occur at least monthly, were originally battalion level leadership and above, key special staff and an assortment of installation mission partners. During the event, however, LeMaster suggested that the meeting should be more inclusive and extended the invitation to company leadership and outside agencies on a recurring basis, not just for the inaugural event.
During the event, LeMaster also discussed each of the corrosives in detail. He said the initiation of the MEDCoE R2C, which had been in the design phase for weeks, is timely as September was Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month.
“The Army is well above the number of suicides this year than it was last year; that fact should be absolutely gut wrenching to all of us,” LeMaster said. “It is imperative that we do better, and I cannot overstate the importance of engaged leaders.”
The meeting also featured a presentation by Col. Wesley Anderson, 32nd Medical Brigade commander, on the proposed suicide mitigation plan for the MEDCoE’s training brigade, currently the largest training brigade in the Army’s inventory.
The Suicide Prevention, or “A Life Worth Living,” Working Group, led by Lt. Col. Valeria Van Dress, MEDCoE Command Chaplain, is one of the three working groups within the MEDCoE R2C. The others are the Sexual Harassment and Assault Working Group lead by Curtis L. Warren, MEDCoE Sexual Harassment Assault Response Prevention Program Manager, and the Diversity and Inclusion Working Group, led by Capt. Chad Beach.
Each working group is intended to align with one of the “three corrosives” in an effort to draft and implement organizational initiatives for addressing and mitigating the effects the corrosives are having within the organization. MEDCoE R2C working group leads will update MEDCoE leaders monthly on the status of current initiatives and elevate trends they are seeing in an effort to remain proactive in the fight against the problem areas.
“The MEDCoE meetings are intended to be the forum where we can talk about the hard topics and issues that are plaguing our organization so we can bring them to light and begin to remedy them with the assistance of both internal and external resources," said Beach, who is also the MEDCoE R2C Coordinator, in addition to being a working group lead.
He believes the first meeting event helped highlight, not only the resources available to leadership on the installation but also how internal resources are arrayed to ensure full coverage and support of the entire formation.
To conclude the event, MEDCoE Command Sgt. Major Clark Charpentier thanked R2C members and JBSA partners for coming together for the council.
“To our partners who are here today, all of you bring something to the table that will help us be successful in support of our Soldiers through each working group in the long term,” Charpentier said.
He expressed the importance of knowing exactly what resources are available locally and nationally to support readiness and resilience efforts. The command sergeant major also explained how leaders and Soldiers at all levels also play a crucial role in fighting each of the corrosives by showing an interest in a Soldier’s mental well-being as well as their physical well-being.
“The seemingly small things that we do each and every day to let Soldiers know they are important and valued show them that their mental health is equally important, and frankly vital, to overall readiness,” Charpentier said. He believes that the success of the R2C in each of the areas depends on promoting open and honest dialogue coupled with tangible or visible actions that ensure everyone is treated with dignity and respect.
“It is about fostering that culture of trust in words and deeds,” Charpentier concluded.