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Regarding the June 9 “One Army, Two Failures” article (“Maltreated and hazed, one soldier is driven to take his own life”): Where do we go from here?

There is no political way to start this dialogue, so I will just offer my perspective.

1. It is easy to point fingers at the Army or the unit’s leadership in the case of the loss of the life of Spc. Brushaun Anderson, but the fact is that only the officers, noncommissioned officers and soldiers assigned to Patrol Base Babil know what truly happened at that location. Standing on the outside looking into this situation, I would never assume that the Army or the unit’s leadership intentionally caused Anderson to take his own life.

2. While (according to the article) the Army has spent “$67 million on studies to try and understand the problem and reverse the trend,” we may need to have independently trained psychologists and sociologists visit our soldiers in WLC/ALC/SLC/OBC/CCC and the combat zone and ask those unfiltered questions to our soldiers and leaders about true stresses in their formation. This would contradict our current practices of wellness surveys and health assessments that do not truly capture an individual’s feedback.

3. I ask that the senior leadership in our formations continue to trust NCOs, but maintain appropriate levels of checks and balances to ensure that appropriate standards are being followed. There is a surprisingly high number of NCOs at combat outposts, firebases, observation posts and patrol bases in the absence of officers in leadership roles. In the absence of officers, higher headquarters has to increase the command presence and visit those locations. During those visits, the command has to ask those critical questions about the command climate at those locations and address any potential problems.

Last, we have to understand that certain skill sets in the Army require different levels of discipline. Regardless of the level of discipline maintained in an organization, no unit leadership intends for suicides to be the result of their tough discipline and should not be blamed as such.

First Sgt. Jerome Chestnut

Kandahar, Afghanistan

No need to call out reservists

I would like to comment on the June 14 letter “Grandfather us in on retirement.”

First, I respect the 10 years that the letter writer has served and I would agree that to change the retirement system without grandfathering those already serving would be a disservice to our military.

That being said, I would respectfully ask him to choose his words more wisely in future letters. To say that individuals should just “join the National Guard” or that “National Guardsmen and reservists are not military career-oriented” is an insult.

I am a 10-year reservist, now back on active duty. I can tell you that the Guardsmen and reservists with whom I’ve served, and continue to serve with, are very much career-oriented patriots! Many have already served from two to more than 10 years on active duty before choosing another way to serve our country. All continue their professional military education and training to make them better leaders, and to earn future promotions. In fact, since the Sept. 11 attacks, many have voluntarily spent more time in defense of our country than in their other professions. Those who serve as Guardsmen and reservists are very much aware of their current retirement plan and continue to serve proudly.

The letter writer’s frustration with the idea of his retirement system changing without regard to his current commitment is warranted. However, I would respectfully ask that he rethink the very reason why we all signed up in the first place and continue to serve — it’s a calling and an honor.

Lt. Col. Clifford R. Dunning Jr.

Beale Air Force Base, Calif.

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