USARPAC commander addresses top issues for Soldiers
FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii -- Commander of U.S. Army Pacific, Lt. Gen. Francis Wiercinski, addressed issues of importance for U.S. Army Pacific Soldiers in an interview July 24 in his office at Richardson Hall on Fort Shafter.
Wiercinski , who has been in command of USARPAC for 16 months, discussed both Armywide and USARPAC-specific issues he feels are most important to Soldiers.
One of the most prevalent Armywide issues that weighs heavily on Wiercinski is suicide.
"We are now losing more Soldiers to suicide than in combat operations," said Wiercinski. "It's tragic and we all have to get after this. Our senior leadership is committed to this, but just saying you are committed to this is not good enough; something has to happen. Until it gets down to the Soldier level -- Soldiers taking care of Soldiers -- we are not going to get there. "
Wiercinski challenged all Soldiers and leaders to remain vigilant in suicide prevention.
"We have to get involved," he said, "We can't be afraid to say, first of all, I think I need help and we can't be afraid to say (someone else) has a problem. I want every Soldier in this command to understand, we all need help at some point. We are human. If you need help ask for it, or if you see something, say something, so we can get our Soldiers the help they deserve."
Wiercinski also addressed sexual assault. He identified the need for every Soldier to become actively involved in preventing the occurrence of sexual assaults.
"Sexual assault is a heinous crime, and no one should have to live in fear of that," he said. "This is not just happening out on the streets. This is happening in our barracks, in our homes and we have to stop it. I need everybody's help to say 'enough.' We are going to take care of ourselves, we are going to protect our own and we are not going to let this happen."
Wiercinski believes a good leader must have the following attributes: values, courage, selflessness, passion and sincere love of Soldiers.
"Great leaders are imbued with values. They live them every single day. They lead by example. The number one value you have to have is integrity. Our profession is built on trust. If Soldiers can't trust leaders, then you can't ask them to put their lives on the line. We have to lead with values and integrity," said Wiercinski.
"Great leaders wake up every day with a passion for their profession, no matter how bad the night was before. They show up in front of their unit with a twinkle in their eye and a glimmer that reflects (their passion). That is an infectious quality. If you give passion, you get passion. It reflects in your unit. The day you wake up and you look at your unit, and everybody has low morale, they look down and depressed, and you want to figure out why -- you need to look in the mirror. If the leader reflects positivity and great morale, the unit will reflect positivity and great morale," he said
As combat operations begin to draw down in Afghanistan, there is a new focus on Army basics. Wiercinski stressed the importance of this Armywide change to USARPAC Soldiers.
"I think we need to get back to being experts at the basics," said Wiercinski. "I think we are going to learn some great lessons and some leaders are going to learn some things they have not seen in the last 10 to 11 years and that's where we are going to be focused. Command Sgt. Maj. (Frank) Leota and the senior noncommissioned officers are on a program, 'Getting Back to Basics' -- getting back to the way we used to do business, all the great things that made us a great Army that was able to sustain two wars over 10 and 11 years. We can't lose that and we've got to reinstitute that."
As the drawdown in Afghanistan begins to take effect, the Defense Department is refocusing on the Asia-Pacific region.
"This is not just an Army refocus, but a whole of government refocus to the Asia-Pacific region, and that includes the United States military and that of course includes the U.S. Army Pacific," said Wiercinski. "U.S. Army Pacific has supported (overseas contingency operations); we have deployed more than 170,000 from U.S. Army Pacific over these last 10 and 11 years. As we have closed down Iraq and done great work there and as we continue to do great work in Afghanistan and start to draw down there, more Soldiers will be available to do work in the Pacific. That is great for the (Pacific Command) commander, that's great for our Army and that is great for our nation. And it's also very welcome with our allies, partners and friends in the area."
In the face of the new emphasis in the Pacific, Wiercinski encouraged Soldiers who travel to meet and work with their Pacific allies to understand their position as role models and ambassadors.
"We have a tremendous effort going on here in USARPAC. We have dedicated staff that works this every single day. We have commanders, officers, noncommissioned officers, civilians and Family members, and they are our best ambassadors from our country every day," he said. "That is why I tell Soldiers when they go to a foreign country for an exercise, you may be the only American these individuals may ever see. They will base their entire opinions on the United States and our values based on how you act. One Soldier can make a great impression for the United States of America. We have to be conscious of that every time we do something in any country we are guests in, because it makes a huge difference."
Wiercinski finished his interview to Soldiers with words of praise.
"I am in the best Army that I have seen or served with," he said. "It's not because of our equipment, which is tremendous; not because of the way we train, which is tremendous; or not even because of our leadership, which is tremendous. It is because of our Soldiers, who are really, really good. You have to be proud to wear this uniform every single day. I'm not looking forward to the day I have to take it off, but right now, I am pretty happy. That is because of our great Soldiers doing such a great job out there."