A simple policy to help soldiers get access to mental health resources and to decrease suicides has failed at Fort Cavazos. The base known formerly as Fort Hood failed following yet another investigation and hair-triggered response.
Back in 2021, Congress mandated servicemembers be authorized to ask for mental health services at any time or place. Called the “Brandon Act,” it was named after Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Caserta who was tormented and bullied relentlessly for seeking mental health services. The Navy and Air Force announced their policies on July 11th and August 7th, respectively. Both missed the June 19th deadline, but the Army has openly said they were working on it, according to a military.com report.
Spokesman Bryce Dubee spoke to them about the situation on August 29th. “The Army is working deliberately to finalize a new policy that will comply with the Brandon Act and will empower soldiers with additional avenues to seek help confidentially — for any reason, at any time, and in any environment — with the goal of reducing the stigma associated with seeking mental health care.”
After three soldiers died by suicide in a short time, Fort Cavazos held their quick response on August 16th. They blocked out time on the training schedule for leaders and their soldiers to sit and discuss mental health, suicide, and preventing it from happening. While an investigation into these deaths is ongoing, they are just another trio in a long list of failures by senior leadership.
While the Army released a consolidated guide to help on August 8th, it serves as a how-to for commanders when their troops display clear suicidal risks. Many troops call the guide a joke as it fails to provide real-world guidance for leadership on how and when to ask questions and how to proceed. With no mention of the Brandon Act or the policy it contains, the guide does nothing to fulfill promises that had been made.
Patrick Caserta serves as the co-president of the Brandon Caserta Foundation. As a retired Senior Chief Petty Officer, he remembers the needs of troops all too well, and he is all too willing to acknowledge that this act isn’t solving the problem. “Everyone knows this is not a perfect fix. It’s just a step in the right direction to reintroduce the programs the DoD has to help these people. They invoke the Brandon Act, and then they can pick the program that addresses whatever problem they need addressed.”
When the Army and other branches failed to have a policy written and approved in time, they yet again failed to make the standard. By STILL not having one in place, the Army has failed countless soldiers. However, the Federal government is even more to blame. The lack of accountability for the Army’s failing to meet the standard is appalling.
If a troop fails to meet the standard, they face adverse actions in response. It’s nothing different than a regular 9 to 5 there. However, when these senior leaders can overlook directives issued from above and continue to fail, something has to be done. Between their failures, and the failure of the Feds to hold them responsible, they have sent a pair of very dangerous messages to their troops.
First, they have told them that they are special and they do not need to be concerned with the Federal Government. They can do what they want, how they want, and when they want. Nobody will tell them any differently. Secondly, and most importantly, they have told those wearing the uniform, as well as those who took it off, that they don’t care about them. Their struggles, mental health, horrible leadership, and struggles with criminally low pay mean nothing to them.
It’s just like they always knew deep down inside. The well-being of those putting the most at risk means the least to those in the plush chairs. Perhaps it’s time some of the leadership is forced to retire. They’ve already proven that they are too incompetent to keep going.