KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (NNS) -- The second stop in the 21st Century Sailor and Marine overseas road show was in Kandahar, Afghanistan, March 18, where Sailors and Marines supporting Operation Enduring Freedom were given the chance to discuss the new personnel initiative and other issues with senior Navy leaders.
Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, Juan M. Garcia III, Chief of Navy Reserve, Vice Adm. Dirk Debbink and Navy Reserve Force Master Chief Chris Wheeler were on hand to explain how the initiative would benefit the fleet and answer questions from those in attendance.
Before getting into the personnel policy discussions, Garcia provided the assembled audiences his reasons for talking with them that day.
"At a time of enormous change for the Navy and Marine Corps, with a new budget, new national defense strategy, and a series of significant personnel policy changes, we've come out to give you the ground truth. Second, we're here to introduce this group of folks to the new 21st Century Sailor and Marine initiative. More than anything, we're here to thank you for the incredible work you're doing in support of Operation Enduring Freedom," said Garcia.
"Town Hall" discussions were held across Kandahar Air Field with Sailors and Marines assigned to Naval Construction Regiment 22, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 7, the NATO Role III Hospital and Marine Attack Squadron 223.
While the 21st Century Sailor and Marine initiative has five core areas including safety, physical fitness, inclusion and continuum of service, the primary focus of these visits and leader comments were on the area of readiness.
Garcia emphasized that operational stress control, which is covered in the readiness area of the intitiative, is something of which personnel serving in Afghanistan need to be acutely aware.
"You understand more than anybody the toll the operational tempo has taken on our Sailors and their families," said Garcia. "21st Century Sailor and Marine is ensuring all the operational stress control tools are provided to our Sailors so they can succeed and excel."
Programs of the 21st Century Sailor and Marine initiative listed by Garcia which are designed to help Sailors and families cope with operational stress included operational stress control training in each command, ensuring an abundance of mental health professionals and pre- and post-health assessments and screenings, and access to DSTRESS hotlines. The goal of the DSTRESS hotline is to help callers manage stress, whether it relates to work, relationships, deployment or finances. The callers do not need to reveal their identity and all calls are strictly confidential.
Debbink told the audience that the toll of their service was not lost on Navy leadership.
"We're here to help, we want you to ask for help, and we want you to take advantage of some of the programs, specifically our Returning Warrior Workshops," said Debbink.
In addition to meeting with Sailors and Marines, Garcia, Debbink and Wheeler spent several hours visiting the NATO Role III hospital staffed by Navy doctors, nurses and corpsmen and toured the Warrior Recovery Center.
The Warrior Recovery Center was established for those service members who have experienced combat operational stress to have a place to regroup, reset and return to duty. The center aims to enhance resiliency, self-management and coping skills.
The 21st Century Sailor and Marine initiative consolidates a set of objectives and policies, new and existing, to maximize Sailor and Marine personal readiness, build resiliency and hone the most combat-effective force in the history of the Department of the Navy.
To reach a DSTRESS hotline, call 877-476-7734.
To learn more about operational stress control visit www.navynavstress.com.