September 27th, 2014 08:06 EST
Battaglia Answers Questions on 'Troop Talk'
By Claudette Roulo
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
The health and welfare of the military force is directly connected to readiness, and preventing suicides is a top priority for military leaders as they seek to protect the health of the force, the senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said during a Troop Talk " episode recorded Sept. 9 at the Defense Media Activity at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland.
Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia answered questions ranging from dealing with stress while on recruiting duty to spousal employment that were submitted via email and through social media as well as fielding questions from the studio audience during filming for the second episode of "Troop Talk" that airs today on DoD News. Battaglia was accompanied by Dr. Susan S. Kelly, director of DoD`s Transition to Veterans Program Office, during a portion of the program.
While September is suicide prevention awareness month, Battaglia said, the Defense Department is taking on the challenge of stopping suicide year-round.
One of the central ways the department is addressing that challenge is through resiliency programs, he said. When the principles espoused by resiliency programs become second nature, Battaglia said, the department will find that the buildup in robustness and resiliency is going to help our service members and families maneuver and navigate through adversity and challenge and crisis and that way they will have better-informed courses of action to make."
If someone feels like they may harm themselves, the sergeant major said, they may find it helpful to remember the acronym "NOW."
"There`s no problem too big -- that`s the `N` -- that would lead or should lead someone to suicide as a solution to some degree of adversity, " Battaglia said.
He said the O " stands for outreach.
And that just means outreach is just a fingertip away, " Battaglia said, whether it`s calling a commander, texting a team leader, ringing in to a battle buddy, whatever, but outreach is just that close. "
He added, And the `W` stands for We care. We understand as leaders in our military ... that our service members sacrifice a lot throughout the course of their enlistment, whether it be four years or four decades and by God we`re going to stand by them. We want to help them to success, not just through the military life cycle, but through the remainder of their life. "
Difficult recruiting duty
Recruiting duty is very difficult, Battaglia said. The long hours and separations can be stressful for the recruiters as well as their families. The military services, as well as the Military Entrance Processing Command, are addressing the stressors inherent in recruiting duty through programs where they engage with the recruiters and their families, he said.
In addition, some recruiting battalions have organization and family days that are opportunities to engage families, the sergeant major said. Resiliency programs, he said, aren`t just for service members. Family members should feel free to take advantage of the assistance those programs offer, Battaglia said.
"The program that I co-manage, Total Force Fitness, is meant for the individual service member, the family member [and] the veteran," he said.
Battaglia said such programs are designed to provide service members and families with best practices, resources and ideas to help build the capacity to deal with stress.
Sports outreach programs
The Defense Department`s outreach programs with sports organizations such as USA Basketball and the USA Men`s Soccer World Cup Team are part of a program called Commitment to Service, which is sponsored by Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the sergeant major said. The partnerships are intended to help players remember what they are representing, Battaglia said.
"Who ... better to do that than us?" he asked. "We do it each and every day -- represent our country."
One of the ways the program has accomplished this is through dog tag exchange ceremonies. The department arranges to have service members present athletes with specially designed dog tags. Rather than being a matched pair as are conventional dog tags, one tag is engraved with the player`s name and other information, and the other tag is engraved with the service member`s information.
Military spouse employment
Department leaders are discussing ways to extend tours to provide more stability for service members and their families, Battaglia said.
"That`s going to depend on, obviously, mission and readiness within that specific service," said the sergeant major, noting there won`t be a "one-size-fits-all" solution handed down from DoD on the length of duty assignments.
Meanwhile, DoD and the White House -- through First Lady Michelle Obama`s Joining Forces initiative -- are working to encourage employers to hire more military spouses and veterans.
"The challenges that our military families face also make you very special," Dr. Kelly said. "Employers ... recognize that that specialness about you. You are problem-solvers, you are resilient and you get the job done. No matter what circumstance you are thrown in, you get the job done."
While the department`s Transition Assistance Program is primarily designed to help service members and their spouses transition and begin post-military careers, she said, some aspects of the program can assist military spouses as they seek employment following permanent changes of station.
TAP`s virtual curriculum was designed with the challenges of military life in mind, Kelly said. It`s posted on the Department of Veterans Affairs eBenefits website, she said, and military spouses can access it whenever it`s convenient for them.
"All 88 hours of curriculum in the Transition GPS is available to our military spouses also. We also post it on the Department of Labor`s website, so it`s out there for everybody to use," Kelly noted.
Spouses can use the program`s resources to examine labor markets in the area they`re moving to, learn how to transfer and take advantage of their military member`s Post 9/11 GI Bill, or build a budget designed to help cushion a temporary loss of employment following a move, she said.
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