Final Thoughts from the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army

 

This week I invited the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, General Peter Chiarelli to provide a guest entry addressing an issue of great importance to both he and I and the Army’s other senior leaders.  As General Chiarelli prepares to retire on January 31st after three and a half years spent as VCSA and nearly forty years of service to our Army, I want to take this opportunity to thank him for the remarkable job he has done and the immeasurable impact he and his wife, Beth have had on the lives of Soldiers, Army Civilians and Family members around the world.  He is a true Patriot, a great American and undoubtedly one of our Army’s very best. 

Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the vice chief of staff of the Army (Photo Credit: Daniel Cernero, III Corps and Fort Hood Public Affairs)

“It is truly remarkable all that our Soldiers have accomplished in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Over the past decade they have done an absolutely magnificent job fighting two wars in difficult and demanding environments.

That said, they are undoubtedly tired and stressed, and many are dealing with challenges including physical and psychological wounds, injuries and illnesses incurred as a result of their service.  Among the most difficult are the non-visible wounds of post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury.  I frequently refer to them as the ‘signature wounds’ of this war.

The foremost challenge is the immaturity of brain science; we simply don’t yet know enough.  Researchers, doctors and other health care providers are learning more and more every day about the brain and about injuries to the brain.  But, there is much still to be discovered.

Fortunately, over the past decade, we’ve made tremendous progress in what has largely been ‘unchartered territory,’ with the development of effective protocols which we put in place downrange for concussive events and mild traumatic brain injuries; we’re currently in the process of developing similar protocols for post-traumatic stress.  Meanwhile, the medical and scientific research communities have developed new treatment and imaging methods, therapies, technologies and protective devices.

We’ve also made great strides within our own ranks.  The comprehensive behavioral health system of care in place today ensures behavioral health screenings are conducted annually, during pre-deployment, prior to redeployment and upon returning home from deployment.  Leaders and Soldiers alike now recognize the parity between physical and behavioral health.  This evolution in the culture of our Force is clearly evident in the increased number of behavioral health contacts in recent years (more than 280,000 individuals sought out-patient behavioral health care in FY11).  This is good news!

Thanks to the great work of Leaders, Commanders and Providers Army-wide we have made meaningful strides in our ongoing efforts to improve the health and discipline of our Force.  Consider where we might be today had we not started this proactive interdisciplinary effort early on.  The reality is we have never been more prepared to take care of Soldiers and Families in a post-war era.  We must maintain this momentum and ensure we take care of our most precious asset: our people.

If we all continue to do our part – reach out – help connect individuals with the tremendous outpouring of support services and resources available to them we can help heal wounds, enable opportunity, and ultimately achieve a stronger, more capable Army for the future.

It truly has been the greatest honor and privilege of my life to serve alongside America’s Soldiers, Army Civilians and Family members these last four decades.  Keep up the great work!

Army Strong!

Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli
32nd Vice Chief of Staff of the Army
 

We invite you to leave your farewells to Gen. Chiarelli in the comment section below.