As we all know 2012 has seen a record number of suicides in the Army. From the record 165 active-duty suicides the Army saw in 2011, there have been 113 cases of confirmed suicides and 64 still under investigation. Statistically speaking, (90 percent of which will be confirmed) 2012 may very well be another record setting year. There is a clear and evident need for both the upper echelon’s and ground Commanders themselves to find an effective solution to this problem before more soldiers take their own lives, and the solution may be here in the form of software.
Tracking high-risk behaviors, disciplinary records and incident reports, The Commanders Risk Reduction Dashboard is the newest “tool” in the Army’s toolbox for fighting the suicide war. It is set up to create profiles for the individual soldier and give commanders, at both the company and battalion level, the ability to know which soldiers may be high-risk for self harm so that they counsel the soldier and help him seek out help. As Army Communications-Electronics Command spokeswoman Andricka Thomas said when discussing how the software works to minimize suicides, “Prevention is the key, and there is no easy solution. The Army aims to mitigate suicide risks.”
Surveying 11,076 commanders, the U.S. Armed Forces Command was able to quantify the probable causes into 24 risk factors that they have found to be characteristic and associated to soldiers who are considered high-risk of self harm. They then constructed a platform where unit and battalion commanders can look up individual soldiers, as well as lists of high risk soldiers and recent transfer soldiers who are determined as high risk. Furthermore they can narrow the searches to a specific time period so as to determine the relative severity towards self-harm of the potential high-risk soldier.
While the dashboard does not replace the relationships or face-to-face time commanders need to spend getting to know their troops, some fear that it will allow commanders to evaluate and examine soldiers from behind a computer screen and allow the face-to-face relationships to fall off as secondary.
“All we need is to add more computer face time for them to not know their soldiers” an anonymous soldier of 15 years told the Army Times in an interview. “I had one of my soldiers that was getting separated from his wife, he was then … labeled high-risk. “My platoon leader wanted all the info but was not concerned about what was happening with the soldier, only about filling out this sheet because we have to brief it at command and staff.”
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Look for Part II tomorrow (January 2nd, 2013)