Army senior leaders send: Don’t be a bystander

By Mark T. Esper
Secretary of the Army
and Gen. Mark A. Milley
Army Chief of Staff

As members of the United States Army, each of us has an obligation to promote a climate of trust–our profession’s bedrock–throughout our organization. The way we do this is by living the Army Values: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage.

From the newest Soldiers in basic training, to our most senior leaders, the Army Values bind us together as a profession. While much is changing for the Army right now, our Values will not. They are enduring and remain as relevant today as they were when first created. When it comes to living the Army Values, there can be no bystanders.

Across the Total Army, we continue to focus on eradicating sexual harassment and sexual assault from our ranks. We must do everything within our power to rid the Army of these crimes. This is a readiness issue that affects our ability to accomplish our mission. Over the past several years, we have placed a high priority on our prevention efforts, and although we are on the right trajectory, we still have significant room to improve. In all components, sexual assault reporting is increasing, which is an indication that our Soldiers trust their leaders to address the situation in a professional manner. We all have a responsibility to look out for one another–there can be no bystanders. Stay alert when the warning signs become present, and if you see something, ACT! Leaders and Soldiers have an ethical obligation to intervene to stop sexual harassment and sexual assault from happening. Those who do not, violate the Nation’s trust and the trust of their peers.

The Army will continue to improve the effectiveness of our prevention efforts moving forward. In April, we will co-lead a Joint SHARP Conference hosted by the Military Service Academies that will bring together college and university leaders from across the country to share best practices. As our society wrestles with this difficult problem, the Army will continue to take a leading role in developing solutions. This starts by ensuring that the perpetrators of sexual harassment and sexual assault are held accountable and that the victims are protected without fear of retribution.

Throughout the force, we must also continue to focus on preventing suicides. Although suicides fell by 1.3 percent across the Total Army in 2018, Regular Army suicides increased by a troubling 18 percent. Our most vulnerable population consists of our junior Soldiers. Leaders and teammates must watch attentively for indicators of suicides and inform their chain of command when they know trouble is on the horizon. Every loss of life from suicide is a tragedy that could have been prevented. Our NCOs are the first line of defense – we expect you to know your Soldiers, visit them in the barracks, and provide them the care and assistance they need and deserve.

We’re counting on each of you to help solve these problems. Every instance of sexual assault or suicide has a moment when someone could have intervened to change the outcome. Have the courage to stand up and act when you see something wrong. Seize the opportunity to get your teammate help or to remove your battle buddy from the environment when warning signs become present. We need everyone on this team to be ready to fight when called upon, which can only happen if we look out for one another. Let us all reaffirm our commitment to our values and to one another. In doing so, we will remain the strongest army on the face of the earth.