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Fort Drum’s command team says soldier suicides were wakeup call

Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 5:12 PM EDT
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FORT DRUM, New York (WWNY) - After losing three 10th Mountain Division soldiers to suicide, Fort Drum’s command team says it’s a wakeup call for post leaders.

“What did we miss? Where did we fail? And how can we prevent this? We’re doing, for the lack of better words, mental gymnastics to think, what are we missing?”

Those are the big questions that come to mind for Command Sergeant Major Mario Terenas after three 10th Mountain Divsion soldiers died to suicide last weekend.

“Honestly, it just crushes my soul to tell you the truth. How do we go from being the lowest to all of a sudden in 48 hours we have three suicides. Something’s not right,” said Terenas.

While the three soldiers were all stationed at Fort Drum, they didn’t serve in the same unit. One did just return from Afghanistan, but officials don’t believe that was a main factor.

“I can tell you factually, the primary reason was not because of coming from Afghanistan,” said Terenas.

What he can tell us is that there’s going to be more emphasis on making connections moving forward.

“Get to know each other. Soldiers get to know their peers. Soldiers get to know their leaders, and vice versa,” said Terenas.

It’s those connections that helped Sgt. Maj. Terenas himself.

“Why didn’t I do it? Well you know why, I didn’t do it because I had someone to call,” said Terenas.

Fort Drum will continue using a program called Teamwork & Respect Unit Strength Training, or TRUST. It involves communication training, a resource scavenger hunt, and obstacle course activity between squads.

“We also teach the leaders and provide them with guidance on how to engage in those uncomfortable conversations with their soldiers,” said Lorilynn Starr, Soldier and Family Readiness Division chief.

Terenas says at the end of the day, soldier or civilian, it’s all about human connections.

“If we get to know each other, if I as a sergeant get to know my young soldier, then there’s ownership,” said Terenas.

He points out the 10th Mountain Division has the lowest suicide rate in the Army even though the 10th is the most deployed division. He fears that low rate could give some a false sense of security.

Fort Drum has more than 20 suicide prevention resources for soldiers and families.

See the list here

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