Fort Riley, Kansas



‘Durable’ brigade Soldiers use teamwork to prevent suicides

By Sgt. 1st Class Victor Gardner | 1ST INF. DIV. SUST. BDE. PUBLIC AFFAIRS | September 22, 2017

     The 1st Infantry Division Sustainment Brigade’s Behavioral Health team hosts weekly physical fitness sessions for platoon level and up every Tuesday to combat the ideologies of suicide and to prevent attempts within the brigade. Capt. Kristy Koontz, 1st Inf. Div. Sust. Bde. health officer, developed a way for Soldiers to know her team after she received a call from a Soldier at 2 a.m.

    “A couple of months ago my phone rings and it was a private calling me to say one of his battle buddy’s was texting him saying he was wanting to harm himself and thinking of killing himself,” Koontz said. “The Soldier told me he got my number from a phone roster and knew that I would answer and be able to help him out because he personally knew me from our time within the brigade.”

      Koontz said she provided assistance by making sure the at-risk Soldier made it to the emergency room, informed the chain of command and ensured the Solider received the care that was needed. After the event, Koontz spoke with her team and developed a way for Soldiers to know who they are and what help they can offer.

    “I didn’t want to have another PowerPoint class,” Koontz said. “As we know, the morning hour of PT (physical fitness) is sacred because everyone has to be there. So I took the idea of integrating my team and PT together so people would be able to put a face to a name and not just ‘who is Capt. Koontz?’ We wanted to make an object lesson focused on teamwork.”

      Koontz said sometimes people put their all into something, or someone, but the result isn’t always what they are looking for.

     “We would break down a company- or platoon-size group into teams of five Soldiers,” Koontz said. “The groups would then complete as many reps of that station’s exercise as possible and be rewarded with whatever was in the bag at that station. They could choose from a minimum of 12 exercises (of 18) to complete the project needing 12 different pieces. Sometimes it was an item needed to complete the task, a duplicate item already earned or nothing at all.”

     Koontz’s team would bring the separate groups back together once the time limit was reached to see which group was able to complete the most task.

     “My NCO (noncommissioned officer) would bring it full circle and ask the question, ‘how did it feel to have completed so many exercises and received the ‘sorry you earned nothing at this station?’” Koontz said. “Or after you did 50 squats and got another brown T-shirt you already had. He brought it back together by asking ‘do we just quit in life if things didn’t go your way or if you failed?’ We are all teammates and are here to help one another in those situation.”

     There is a lot of banter and competitiveness going on between the different teams during the competition, Koontz said, and the activities allowed the Soldiers to stop and think about their actions.

      “It got their minds thinking, ‘hey, this isn’t where I want to go so how can I get to my end goal?’” Koontz said. “This also allows Soldiers to now know who we are and if they can stop me and say ‘hey Capt. Koontz, this happened to me last weekend.’ I just want to make sure they know they have a safe person to bounce some ideas off of.”

      For more information on this program, contact Koontz or her team at the Behavioral Health section of Farrelly Health Clinic by calling 785-240-5585.


Tag suicide prevention