“One of my troops just had a series of unfortunate events,” 1st Sgt. Tron Gentry, first sergeant of Company A, 303rd Military Intelligence Battalion, 504th Military Intelligence Brigade, said. “He was hanging out with his battle buddies one weekend which resulted in some legal actions. Once he made it through that, his wife told him she wanted a divorce. He just took a turn for the worse.”
Sgt. 1st Class Ralph Martin, first sergeant of Headquarters and Headquarters Company ran into a similar situation. “I had a Soldier who had a hard time adapting to the military life,” Martin said.
His Soldier was recycled from a military occupational specialty-producing school and became a mechanic. Coming into the unit, he was already upset and depressed. After that his mother died in a housefire, he said. While on leave, he got involved with a girl who caused more problems for him.
“He told his supervisor that he wanted to commit suicide,” he said. “We intervened and got him to behavioral health.”
Gentry had a different experience getting his Soldier the help he needed.
“At the time, I had him stay with one of his battle buddies on post because I did not want him to stay by himself. Every night before he went to bed, we would talk,” Gentry said. “There was one night that I called him, and he just sounded bad. He was mumbling and it was hard to make out what he was saying. So, I am like, ‘Okay this doesn’t sound good,’ and I went and picked him up.”
Gentry took his Soldier to the hospital and was unable to get in because they were backed up. He drove his Soldier to another hospital, but they also had no room, he said. At this time the pair went back to the battalion parking lot to spend a few hours before work started and they could get more help. Gentry said it took over eight months before his Soldier recovered from his series of unfortunate events.
Martin recalled that it took a long period of time for his Soldier to recover as well.
Both leaders explain the importance of knowing the Soldiers in their formations.
“Before you are able to identify any signs, you have to know that Soldier. Knowing your people is not the score of their APFT, date of rank, NCOES schools or what is on their SRB,” Gentry said. “To be able to affectively lead your people, you need to know those things that are not on the SRB. Who that person really is. Knowing their habits, characteristics, all those things. When they deviate from their baseline then you know there is something going on.”
Martin told his Soldier that he could contact him morning, noon and night and that was what he did. “One night he had rigged up his belt to hang himself. He called me over and I stayed with him.”
Martin has lost a Soldier due to suicide and wanted to make sure that all the recourses were available to this Soldier.
Both Soldiers were able to receive the help they needed through two caring leaders who got to know their Soldiers and intervened immediately.
Martin said he recently received a message from his Soldier who expressed thanks because without his care he would not be here today.