By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
March 3, 2010 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has called on every member of the Defense Department to play a personal role in creating a secure environment that will help to prevent more tragedies like the Nov. 5 shooting rampage that left 13 people dead at Fort Hood, Texas. Gates issued a memo yesterday after reflecting on results of the independent review he directed after the incident to ensure the safety and health of servicemembers, civilian defense employees, and their families.
"I ask all commanders, supervisors, noncommissioned leaders and other personnel in the department to reinforce the fabric of trust with one another," Gates wrote. "From simple everyday expressions of concern, to supervising, mentoring and counseling, we, and every servicemember, need to be more attuned to one another's mental, emotional and spiritual balance and be willing to take responsible action."
Gates urged department members to look beyond their day-to-day tasks and challenges and take action if their colleagues appear to be at risk.
He also called for leaders to be honest in their assessments of their subordinates – particularly when they identify red flags – and to document what they identify.
"Leadership at every level depends on the integrity to assess the performance of our people honestly and openly," Gates wrote. "We can only deal with internal threats if we can rely on the quality of the information in our official records. There are serious effects of failure to reflect fully, accurately and completely on all aspects of professional ethical and personal career development in performance appraisals."
Gates called on leaders to instill and preserve "the core traits that sustain our profession and keep our forces strong, effective and safe."
"With responsibility comes accountability," he wrote. "My expectation is that our leaders will set the standards for leadership, management and mentoring, and will be accountable for the health and performance of the force."
Gates concluded his memo recognizing how much the country has asked of its servicemembers and Defense Department civilians over the past two decades, and how they have repeatedly risen to the occasion.
"Each of you has an important role in adapting to the changing security environment," he wrote. "Together, we will make the force and our nation safer, stronger and more secure to face the challenges of today and tomorrow."
Gates issued the memo based on findings of the Department of Defense Independent Review Related to Fort Hood. He directed the review and appointed former Army Secretary Togo D. West Jr. and retired Navy Adm. Vernon E. Clark, a former chief of naval operations, to lead it. The panel provided its report to Gates on Jan. 15.
Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, is charged with killing 13 people, 12 military and one civilian, and wounding 43 others during a Nov. 5 shooting rampage at Fort Hood. He has been charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 specifications of attempted premeditated murder under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The UCMJ is the U.S. military's legal system for servicemembers.
Hasan, a Muslim, allegedly became radicalized and complained to colleagues about his role as a U.S. military officer when he was posted at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here before being assigned to Fort Hood in July.