Fort Campbell soldiers received a wakeup call from their commander Wednesday morning after a string of suicides in recent weeks.
Thousands of Airborne soldiers filed onto the parade ground at sunrise for what amounted to a stern talking-to from Brig. Gen. Stephen Townsend. He says 11 suicides have been confirmed so far this year, with several more under investigation.
“Right now Fort Campbell is leading the Army in this statistic. This is not a place that Fort Campbell and the 101st Division want to be.”
Fort Campbell was tracking at a suicide a week through March, which Townsend calls “craziness.” After an intense suicide prevention campaign in March came a six-week lull. Then two soldiers killed themselves last week.
Townsend says the numbers could be far worse were it not for intervention efforts by unit leaders. Chaplain Ken Brown says one suicide a day is averted by what he calls a “diving catch.”
“We have people, yeah, every day, that are going through emotional strains and stresses, who are certainly potential suicides and some who specifically state, ‘hey, I’m going to kill myself.’”
Senior leaders have identified soldiers most at risk. Gen. Townsend says most of the suicide victims have not been on the installation’s watch list.
Gen. Townsend will address everyone of the 20,000-plus member division before week’s end. Fort Campbell officials are still looking for a common thread among suicide victims. Most are young, white males. Deployments seem to have little impact, though. Some soldiers had never deployed while others had several tours of duty under their belt.