UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Retired military officers’ letter on amending gun law to help battle suicides

Released 2 Dec 2012













November 28, 2012

To Members of Congress:

We know you share our grave concern about the alarming rate of suicide among those who serve in our nation’s military. For our troops and their families, we all have a solemn obligation to take every measure possible to address this crisis. It is in this spirit that we urge your active support for ending unwise restrictions on military commanders that interfere with their obligation and ability to keep the men and women under their command safe.

A little noticed amendment added to the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act [Section 1062] states that the Secretary of Defense “shall not prohibit, issue any requirement relating to, or collect or record any information relating to the otherwise lawful acquisition, possession, ownership, carrying, or other use of a privately owned firearms, privately owned ammunition or another privately owned weapon” by a member of the Armed Forces or a civilian DoD employee on property that is not a military installation or otherwise owned by DoD. The impact of this provision is extreme. It is preventing commanding officers from being able to talk to service members about their private weapons and encourage use of a gunlock or temporary storage away from their homes. This prohibition is in place even in cases when the commanding officer believes the service member is in danger of committing suicide.

This kind of prohibition defies common sense and dangerously interferes with commanding officers’ Title X obligation to ensure the health, welfare, morale and well-being of the troops under their command.

DoD has issued guidance indicating that conversations about firearms can occur in limited circumstances despite Section 1062, but the law is directly prohibiting conversations that are needed to save lives. This provision unnecessarily ties the hands of commanders and interferes with their obligation to protect the health and welfare of the service members. As former commanders, we know that any ambiguity in law and DoD guidance creates problems. Military commanders deserve clear authority to take the appropriate action to protect their warfighters without any fear of violating the law.

Firearms are used in more than two-thirds of military suicides, with the majority involving personal firearms. Military deaths from suicide increased by 18% in the first six months of 2012 over that same period in 2011. As retired senior leaders who know firsthand the challenge leaders face in protecting our troops, we urge that Section 1062 be repealed to end the restrictions on military commanders from talking about private guns and intervening with service members that they believe to be at risk of suicide.

Military suicide is a complex problem that demands a range of actions to address it. Repeal of Section 1062 is an immediate step that can and must be taken now to save lives.


General (Ret) Dennis J. Reimer, USA

General Dennis J. Reimer, United States Army (Retired) graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1962 and was commissioned in the Field Artillery. General Reimer has a Masters Degree in Public Administration from Shippensburg State College and has held numerous command and staff positions throughout 37 years of active service.

General Reimer served as a Battalion Advisor with Military Assistance Command in Vietnam; Company Commander with the U.S. Army Training Center at Fort Benning, Georgia; Battalion Executive Officer and Operations Officer in the 9th Infantry Division in Vietnam; Battalion Commander in the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colorado and Commander of Division Artillery with the 8th Infantry Division in Germany. He also served as Chief of Staff of the 8th Infantry Division; Commanding General of the 4th Infantry Division; U.S. Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans; U.S. Army Vice Chief of Staff and Commanding General, Forces Command. In June of 1995, General Reimer became the 33rd Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army.

After his retirement from active duty in 1999, General Reimer became the first Director of the National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism in Oklahoma City. In 2005 Reimer became the President of DFI Government Services in Washington, D.C. He retired from that position in 2009.

General Reimer serves as President of Army Emergency Relief and is a Trustee of the Association of the United States Army. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of Mutual of America. He and his wife reside in Arlington, VA.

Lieutenant General(Ret) Ronald R.Blanck, DO, USA

LTG Ronald R. Blanck, D.O. (Ret.) was the 39th Surgeon General of the United States Army. Dr. Blanck began his military career in 1968 as a medical officer and battalion surgeon in Vietnam. He retired 32 years later as the Surgeon General of the US Army and commander of the US Army Medical Command, with more than 46,000 military personnel and 26,000 civilian employees throughout the world.

During his military career, Dr. Blanck also served as commander of Walter Reed Medical Center; first commander of the North Atlantic Region Medical Command; and Director of Professional Services and Chief of Medical Corps Affairs for the US Army Surgeon General. Other assignments included Assistant Dean of Student Affairs at the Uniformed Services University School of Medicine; Chief of the Department of Medicine at Brooke Army Medical Center; Commander, Berlin Army Hospital; and Commander, Frankfurt Regional Army Medical Center.

Dr. Blanck’s military honors include Distinguished Service Medals, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star, and Meritorious Service and Army Commendation Medals.

Lieutenant General(Ret) Daniel W. Christman, USA

LTG (Ret.) Daniel W. Christman served for five years as the superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point. He also served for two years as assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during which time he traveled with and advised Secretary of State Warren Christopher. He was centrally involved during this period with negotiations between Israel and Syria as a member of the Secretary's Middle East Peace Team. LTG Christman represented the United States as a member of NATO's Military Committee in Brussels, Belgium.

Graduating first in his class from West Point, LTG Christman also received MPA and MSE degrees in public affairs and civil engineering from Princeton University and graduated with honors from The George Washington University Law School.

LTG Christmanis a decorated combat veteran of Southeast Asia, where he commanded a company in the 101st Airborne Division in 1969. On four occasions, LTG Christman has been awarded the Army and Defense Distinguished Service Medal, which is the Defense Department's highest peacetime award.

Lieutenant General(Ret) James M. Dubik, USA

LTG James M. Dubik (U.S. Army, Ret.)assumed command of Multi National Security Transition Command-Iraq (MNSTC-I) on June 10, 2007. During this final command, he oversaw the generation and training of the Iraqi Security Forces. Previously, he was the Commanding General of I Corps at Ft. Lewis and the Deputy Commanding General for Transformation, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command. He also served as the Commanding General of the 25th Infantry Division.

LTG Dubik has held numerous leadership and command positions with airborne, ranger, light and mechanized infantry units around the world. He was commissioned a second lieutenant of infantry from Gannon University as a Distinguished Military Graduate in 1971, and he retired from service on September 1, 2008. He holds a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Philosophy from Gannon University, a Master’s of Arts degree in Philosophy from Johns Hopkins University and a Master of Military Arts and Sciences Degree from the United States Army Command and General Staff College.

His awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, four awards of the Legion of Merit, five awards of the Meritorious Service Medal, and numerous Army Commendation and Achievement Medals.LTG Dubik is ranger, airborne and air assault qualified, and he holds the expert infantryman’s badge and the master parachutist badge, as well as the Army Staff Identification Badge.In February 2012, LTG Dubik was named the next General Omar N. Bradley Chair in Strategic Leadership, shared by the Army War College, Dickinson College, and Penn State University's Dickinson School of Law and School of International Affairs. LTGDubik was honored as a 2012 inductee into the U.S. Army Association Ranger Hall of Fame.

Lieutenant General(Ret) William J. Hilsman, USA

LTG William Hilsman served as Commanding General of the Army’s Research and Development Laboratories at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey; Commanding General of the U.S. Army Communications Training Center at Fort Gordon, Georgia; and President of the U.S Army Combat Arms Training Board (CATB) at Fort Benning, Georgia. LTGHilsman’s tours of duty included the 1st Infantry Division, the 9th Infantry Division, and the 4th Armored Division of the U.S. Army.

LTGHilsman has served on two Army Science Board Summer Studies and chaired the National Guard and Reserve Forces panel on the Defense Science Board Summer Study on the Role of the Department of Defense in Homeland Security. He has also served on the Defense Science Board’s task force on Training for Future Conflicts.

LTGHilsman was Chief of Defense Communications, and Manager of the National Communications System in Washington, D.C., where he was responsible for the DoD worldwide communications and command and control systems. He initiated and later served on the President’s National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee (NSTAC), a committee composed of chief executive officers from the telecommunications and information systems industries, advising the President on issues of national security and emergency preparedness.

LTGHilsman graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1954. He earned a Masters Degree in Electrical Engineering with a Computer Science major from Northeastern University in 1962. He is also a graduate of the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.

Vice Admiral (Ret) Harold M. Koenig, MD, USN

Vice Admiral Harold Koenig, MD (Ret.) retired in 1998 as Surgeon General of the Navy and Chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery with the permanent rank of Vice Admiral after a 32-year Navy career.

As Surgeon General, Dr. Koenig exercised day-to-day executive management and oversight of the entire Department of the Navy’s medical policies, programs, and activities. Prior to serving as Navy Surgeon General he was assigned to the Office of the Secretary of Defense where he served as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Health Affairs).

Dr. Koenig is currently the Chairman of the Board and President of The Annapolis Center for Science Based Public Policy, a non-profit foundation dedicated to promoting responsible environmental, health and safety decision-making. He is also the President of the Kensington-Talmadge Community Association. He is a partner in Edward Martin & Associates Inc. a consulting firm to the healthcare industry and healthcare information management and technology companies.

Dr. Koenig’s military awards include the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit with Gold Star, Meritorious Service Medal with Gold Star, Navy Commendation Medal, and the Navy Achievement Medal.

Lieutenant General(Ret) Charles P. Otstott , USA

LTG Charles P. Otstott, USA (Ret.) served as the Deputy Chairman of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Military Committee. While there, he was an active participant in many of the crucial decisions made at NATO during the dramatic collapse of the Soviet Union and the opening of the Eastern European states and the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union to western influence and ideas.

Prior to his two and one half years at NATO, LTG Otstott served as Division Commander of the 25th Infantry Division (Light) at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, from July 1988 to January 1990. He was responsible for training and operational employment of the division, which routinely deployed units for joint and combined exercises with allies in Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, and Australia. He also directed and supervised major improvements in facilities management and in excellence of service to the people of the Schofield Barracks community.

From 1986 to 1988, he was the Commanding General of the Combined Arms Combat Development Activity (CACDA) at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. He represented the user community in the determination and integration of requirements for weapons and equipment systems. Prior to 1986, LTG Otstott served as an Assistant Division Commander in the 1st Armored Division in Germany, as Executive to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) at SHAPE HQ, and as Chief of Staff of the 9th Infantry Division (HTLD) at Ft. Lewis after commanding a brigade in that division.

LTG Otstottearned a B.S from the United States Military Academy in 1960, and an M.S. from Purdue University in 1967.

Lieutenant General (Ret) Charles H. Roadman II, MD, USAF

Dr. Roadman retired from the Air Force in 1999 as the Surgeon General of the United States Air Force and was responsible for healthcare policy, quality of care, resource allocation and oversight of health services to 2.4 million beneficiaries through an integrated healthcare delivery system of 79 treatment facilities worldwide and 48,000 medical personnel.

In 2007 he served as a member of the Department of Defense Independent Review Group, chartered by the Secretary of Defense to review the rehabilitation and administrative processes at Walter Reed and Bethesda.

Dr. Roadman has a B.S. in Geology from Washington and Lee University and an M.D. from Emory University School of Medicine. During the clinical phase of his career, he was a Board Certified Obstetrician and Gynecologist.

Rear Admiral (Ret) Timothy S. Sullivan, USCG

Rear Admiral Sullivan served in the United States Coast Guard for 36 years. He was head of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Force Readiness Command (FORCECOM) whose mission was to “prepare the Coast Guard’s total workforce and concurrently served as the Deputy for the Coast Guard Pacific Area in charge of all operations in the entire Pacific Theatre.

As head of Pacific Maintenance and Logistics Command, RADM Sullivan directed all Coast Guard maintenance and operations in the Western U.S. and the Pacific, including the Arctic, Antarctic and Asia. As Commander, First District in Boston, MA, he planned and directed all Coast Guard operations in the organization’s most challenging operating area consisting of 8 States and 2,300 miles of coast. RADM Sullivan served as Senior Military Advisor to the Secretary of Homeland Security covering a range of issues, including maritime and border security, migrant interdiction, management processes, interagency coordination and incident response, and he was designated by SECDHS as a Principal Federal Official for crisis management, hurricane operations & finally H1N1 virus planning. RADM Sullivan was Pacific Area Chief of Staff, reporting directly to the Pacific Area Commander, managing $400M in annual funding; assisting in critical operations including high seas drift net enforcement, record cocaine seizures, illegal migrant interdictions & trans-polar missions. He was the Commanding Officer of Coast Guard Group, San Francisco and served as homeland defense during 9/11 operations in a top 5 port, while coordinating with over 30 federal, state and local agencies. RADM Sullivan has also been in command of a number of cutters and shore stations.

RADM Sullivan completed his undergraduate education at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and holds an advanced degree from Cornell University. He completed specialty programs at the Kennedy School of Government Senior Executive National and International Security Program at Harvard University, as well as extensive work at the DHS/FEMA-training institute National Incident Management Command systems and ICS.

Rear Admiral (Ret) James A. Barnett Jr., USN

James Arden “Jamie” Barnett, Jr. is a retired Rear Admiral in the Navy and Navy Reserve. He has commanded several commissioned and reserve units, including Mobile Inshore Undersea Warfare Unit 207, and he served on the ground in Saudi Arabia during DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM. In 2002, Jamie Barnett proposed the establishment of the Navy Center for Personal Development (now called the Center for Personal and Professional Development) and served as its first Commanding Officer. The Center was very involved in the Navy’s effort at suicide awareness and prevention. Upon being promoted to Rear Admiral, he served in the Pentagon as the Director of Naval Education Training. His last assignment in the Navy was Deputy Commander of the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command in Little Creek, Virginia, which consisted of approximately 40,000 specially trained Sailors such as the Seabees, Explosive Ordinance Disposal personnel, Coastal Warfare and Riverine units. He retired in 2008, having served for 32 years.

As a civilian, he just completed a three-year tour as the Chief of the Federal Communications Commission's Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau. He was responsible for overseeing FCC activities pertaining to public safety, homeland security, cybersecurity and disaster preparedness. He established the Cybersecurity and Communications Reliability Division in his bureau and led the Commission’s team in developing policy to fight botnets and improve the security of Internet routing and the Domain Name System. Rear Admiral Barnett and his wife, who is a public school teacher, have resided in Northern Virginia for the last ten years.

Brigadier General(Ret) Stephen A. Cheney, USMC

BGen Cheney is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and has more than 30 years experience as a Marine. His career included a wide variety of command and staff positions with the operating forces and the supporting establishment. His primary specialty was artillery, but he focused extensively on entry-level training, commanding at every echelon at both Marine Corps Recruit Depots, to include being the Commanding General at Parris Island. He also served tours as Deputy Executive Secretary to Defense Secretaries Cheney and Aspin; ground plans officer for Drug Enforcement Policy in the Pentagon; liaison to the Congressional Commission on Roles and Missions of the Armed Forces; and Inspector General of the Marine Corps. Following retirement in 2001, he became Chief Operating Officer for BENS (Business Executives for National Security), and then President/CEO of the Marine Military Academy in Harlingen, Texas (2006-2011). He then was selected to his current position as Chief Executive Officer of the American Security Project in Washington, DC.

He is a graduate of the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, the National War College, and the University of Southern California. He was a military fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City, where he is a member.

Brigadier General(Ret) Stephen N. Xenakis, MD, USA

Dr. Xenakis served 28 years in the United States Army as a medical corps officer. He retired in 1998, at the rank of Brigadier General. He held a wide of variety of assignments as a clinical psychiatrist, staff officer, and senior commander including Commanding General of the Southeast Army Regional Medical Command.

He is an Adjunct Clinical Professor at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences with an active clinical and consulting practice, and has been a senior adviser to the Department of Defense on neurobehavioral conditions and medical management. He is actively engaged in developing applications of quantitative electroencephalography (qEEG) for primary care clinicians.

Dr. Xenakis graduated from the University of Maryland School of Medicine and Princeton University.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list