SMA discusses mental health, racial issues at Fires Conference | Article

By Marie PihulicOctober 1, 2020

Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston discussed tough issues in the ranks and offered ways to maneuver through. He spoke to a live and tuned-in audience Sept. 30 for the 2020 Fires Conference.Grinston discussed how the "My Squad" mentality of connection to those on your Army team, and with family and friends is important. He also explained how being an expert in any particular field means first being an expert Soldier. He said those two fundamentals will eliminate most of the problems the Army is facing.Later in the discussion he was asked the best way to reduce the stigma of going to behavioral health.“We haven’t convinced you at the junior leader level that it’s OK. I’m going to say it again, it’s OK to go to behavioral health,” stressed Grinston.He said the Army is looking into ways to normalize seeing a mental health provider and he suggested one way would be to have all Soldiers go for an annual checkup, if funding would allow it.Another question came in asking Grinston how he would suggest a junior leader talk to their unit about racial issues.“Don’t be afraid of it, don’t shy away from it,” said Grinston. “My advice to you is ask the question, start the conversation.”“I used to say, ‘All I see is green,’ and a Soldier said ‘Sgt. Maj. I don’t think you should say that.’ And I said ‘What do you mean?’ And he said, ‘Well you know you don’t see all of me when you say that.’”“That’s really powerful,” said Grinston.He went on to say he’s heard Soldiers say racism isn’t an issue in their unit, but he’s found it may be something they experience off-post.One real-life example was of a lieutenant colonel in the Army.“He got arrested because he’s a black man going to his house and they thought he was breaking in,” Grinston said.He told the Fires audience it is important to understand the issues those on their team are facing and said leaders can do that by sitting down with their Soldiers and asking a couple of questions.“Just tell me how did you grow up? And then the second question, are you having any issues in your unit or in your community?”He said it is also important to find out if a Soldier’s family is having any issues as well.

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