OKLAHOMA CITY Early this month, the adjutant general for Oklahoma, Maj. Gen. Myles Deering, brought all of his senior commanders and many other senior leaders together at the Oklahoma National Guard's Regional Training Institute to meet with behavioral health specialists. The topic of the meeting was combating soldier suicide and Deering made sure that all in attendance knew that preventing suicide is one of his top priorities.
Some six months after the return of the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (IBCT) from Afghanistan, Guard officials are dealing with the reality that local guardsmen are almost as likely to die by their own hand as they are from enemy contact. Since 9/11, 19 Oklahoma citizen-soldiers have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, but during the same period another 16 committed suicide, including nine in the past two years.
"I want you (commanders) to know how intent I am on finding a solution that will help us solve this problem. You are going to get everything I've got," Deering told about 80 top military officials. "I need you to help me get out front as leaders because I can't touch all 10,000 soldiers and airmen. We have to work together to come up with answers that will help these young people."