FORT HOOD, Texas — The biggest asset the U.S. Army has is the soldiers that choose to put on the uniform and risk their lives to protect their country.
That’s why Fort Hood has spent the last few days hosting the People First Summit and it’s more than a discussion, it’s a crucial step toward change.
”We’re here because we’re going to make the Army better,” said CSM Cliff Burgoyne, III Corps Command Sergeant Major. “We’re here to help the Army change policy, to inform our soldiers, to become a better Army. So, at the end of the day, we can fight and win tonight.”
While sexual assault and harassment policy changes are on the list, experts are also digging into the high rate of suicide by firearms and how training by The Overwatch Project can make a difference.
”The Overwatch Project is a suicide prevention initiative that is specifically focused on the military and veteran community,” said Casey Woods, executive director of Overwatch Project. “It’s essentially the 'friends don’t let friends drive drunk' model except, instead of talking about alcohol and cars, we work on firearms and suicide.”
Experts like retired Brigadier General Mike Eastman are focusing on how to make it easier for soldiers to transition back to civilian life when they are ready to take the uniform off.
”So, we’ve found that if we can make that straightforward and simple, connect them with someone that knows the town that they're moving to and get some of these questions answered, it removes some of the pressure and leads to much better outcomes,” said Eastman.
While improving the life of a soldier was the main focus, their families were not left out.
”Bringing our military spouses into this whole world that we call the Army,” said LTC Andrew Carpenter, 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command. “Getting the information and how we get information to our spouses and making them part of this family, I think will be critical to the success.”
Spending a few days on these topics and more has leaders on post eager to get to work.
”Well there’s going to be a couple of different things,” said LTC Carpenter. “First will definitely be about the firearms safety, about asking the question. We pride ourselves on the battle buddy program that we have in 13th ESC. So, we’re going to institute some sort of gun buddy program.”
The goal of the summit was to spark change and everyone involved said, that is exactly what it did.