Fort Bliss Commander talks furloughs and preventing Soldier deaths

U.S. Army

Commentary: "Thoughts while working out in the gym"

Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 2:43am

No More Preventable Soldier Deaths
Yesterday, we mourned the loss of one of our own. I and hundreds of our Soldiers attended the memorial service for one of our Soldiers who was killed on the night of February 9th when the car in which he was a passenger flipped over on I-10. Unfortunately, he was not wearing his seatbelt. If he had, it is very likely his family would not have had to sit through yesterday’s memorial ceremony. The driver and another passenger were wearing their seatbelts and both walked away from the accident with only minor injuries. Please, wear your seatbelts at all times.

Also yesterday, a Soldier in 11th ADA Brigade died while conducting an Army Physical Fitness Test on Fort Bliss. The cause of death is unknown at this time.

No more preventable Soldier deaths! We have already had three so far this year. Leaders, stay both engaged and intrusive. We must all look after our battle buddies and make the right decisions!

This past weekend, some of our Soldiers showed the kind of care and decision-making that saves lives and prevents the kind of memorial services we had yesterday. In each of these cases, Soldiers stepped forward to bring in their chain of command, the chaplaincy, and medical professionals to avert disaster. I couldn’t be more proud of these Soldiers!

In one incident, a Soldier made posts online that his battle buddies immediately

recognized as a call for help. Two of his fellow junior enlisted Soldiers saw the posting and immediately took action, replying to the posts that the Soldier should not act on his ideations. Within 30 minutes, a chaplain was with this young Soldier. These two Soldiers may have saved a life by their attentiveness, dedication and quick action. That’s what good battle buddies do for each other!

In another incident, four Soldiers were driving back to Fort Bliss from a night out and talking in the car. One of them admitted he was thinking about killing himself. The Soldier driving immediately drove his buddy to the emergency room. Again, the caring, alert and decisive actions of these three Soldiers may have saved a life.

Smart, plugged-in Soldiers can prevent Soldier deaths here on Fort Bliss and in El Paso. We are finding in many cases it is peers, rather than leaders, who are directly interceding to save lives. These are the kind of Soldiers we all want next to us in combat. Be a good battle buddy! Help us to eliminate preventable Soldier deaths on Fort Bliss.

Furloughs
One of the hallmarks of excellence across Team Bliss is the outstanding service provided by our civilian employees. Fort Bliss could not function without the hard work and dedication our civilians contribute every day. From caring for our Soldiers’ and families’ health to securing our installation, civilians are a vital part of the team.

Last week Defense Secretary Leon Panetta formally notified Congress the Department of Defense plans to furlough civilian defense employees. While we are still hopeful sequestration will be averted, we are developing plans to implement the furlough process. Each employee will be furloughed 22 nonconsecutive days between 23 April 2013 to 26 Sep 2013. In the coming days, our civilian and military leaders will hold town hall meetings with their civilian employees.

We have several goals throughout this process: to ensure we continue to treat each of our civilians as valued members of the team, to continue essential services and to remain transparent throughout.

We fully realize furloughs will be painful for our civilian employees and their families. We are working to ensure we implement any furloughs in a manner which will allow employees the maximum time to prepare.

Unit Update: Gunstone
For the past few weeks Soldiers from the Gunstone Brigade have been at Hulburt Field, Florida, conducting Exercise Blue Flag 13-1 with the 505th Combat Training Squadron. These Soldiers replicated a Joint Task Force to test the 12th Air Force Air Operations Center and the U.S. Southern Command’s 1st Battlefield Coordination Detachment to support contingency operations worldwide.

The training focused on giving our Soldiers experience in using aircraft to gain air superiority and support ground forces across a foreign country. The goal was to have Air Force commanders and fire supporters integrated into the fight from the beginning of a conflict. Members of the Gunstone Brigade have been developing a challenging scenario for this exercise since December.

During Exercise Blue Flag, the Gunstone Brigade continued the excellence demonstrated daily here at Fort Bliss. By all accounts, 212th Fires Brigade exceeded the standard in every way. Job well done!

Tax Services
By now all of us have printed our W-2s online and can take advantage of the tax professionals volunteering their time. These Soldiers and civilians are working through training holidays and giving up personal time to ensure all of Team Bliss’ Soldiers, Families, Civilians, and Retirees get the best tax preparation service available, for free.

You don’t need to spend any of your hard-earned money to get the best refund; you just need to set up an appointment at Fort Bliss’ Tax Center. Last year, the Tax Center saved Soldiers and Family member over $1.1 million in tax preparation fees.

There are two Tax Centers open on Fort Bliss, one in building 2910, near the intersection of Cassidy and Carrington Roads. The other is on East Bliss, in building 401, near the intersection of Sgt. Major Boulevard and Thunderhorse Way.

Fitness
Check out some of our great fitness classes at Stout and Soto fitness centers. We’ve got classes on Zumba, Spinning (cycling), Yoga, and Power Lifting. If you are looking to get fit, come on out to our facilities and get into some of our group classes. Class schedules are available at the Fort Bliss MWR Sports Facebook page.

Don’t forget about the Old Ironsides Mud Challenge on April 20th! Register before April 17th at the snack bars at Soto or Stout Fitness Centers. You can also register online at active.com.

Congratulations to our top performers at this past weekend’s El Paso Marathon. Major Andrew Medendorp from WBAMC finished fourth overall out of 322 runner and Brandon Gangstad from DPTMS Schools placed third in his age group. Congratulations to all Fort Bliss Soldiers who finished the big race.

Well, back to the gym. It’s going to start warming up outside, so get out and walk, run, or ride a bike! When in doubt – workout!

Be combat ready, be fit, be resilient and be Iron Strong!

Iron Soldiers – Always Forward, Globally – Connected, Expeditionary!

 

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