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SECNAV Challenges DON Leadership to Champion Navy-Marine Corps Resilience, Readiness

17 March 2023

Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Carlos Del Toro hosted a Department of Navy (DON) Resilience off-site March 17 with senior Navy and Marine Corps leaders to discuss opportunities and identify action items that will promote well-being, improve quality of life, advance integrated prevention, and increase warfighting readiness Department-wide.

The discussion occurred a day after Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin released a Department wide memo on suicide prevention in the military.

“As Secretary Austin said, ‘Our most precious resource is our people and we must spare no effort in working to eliminate suicide within our ranks. We must do everything possible to heal all wounds, whether visible or invisible, and we must do away with the stigmas on getting help,'” Del Toro said. “This is a critical leadership issue and today's off-site provides us an opportunity to exchange ideas on mental health, suicide prevention, and upstream factors, such as quality of life.”

Throughout the day, the DON Office of Force Resiliency (OFR) facilitated discussion with nationally recognized experts in mental health and wellness, suicide prevention, and lethal means safety. This provided DON military and civilian leaders a forum for advancing strategies to enhance quality of life, safety, and connection, and further suicide prevention efforts.

Through personal narratives, presentations and panel sessions, attendees considered leadership approaches that promote mental health literacy, healthy climates and lethal means safety, and examined national efforts that could inform the Department’s resilience and suicide prevention strategies.

“Strengthening our naval forces requires active and engaged leaders who foster cultures of safety and connectedness to promote quality of life and service. We must also facilitate access to mental healthcare, lethal means safety, and postvention,” said Andrea N. Goldstein, Acting Director, DON OFR. “Leadership development on this subject is continuous. We need to rebuild institutional trust, increase support and resiliency, and educate our leaders on how to build connection, care for team members, have tough conversations, and promote positive attitudes regarding mental health and wellness. These behaviors start with us.”

Junior Sailors and Marines were also invited to participate in discussions about mental health and force resiliency.

Session speakers included Mrs. Teri and Mr. Patrick Caserta of the Brandon Caserta Foundation; Mr. Ross Szabo of the Geffen Academy at the University of California, Los Angeles; Dr. Jerry Reed of the Suicide Prevention and Response Independent Review Committee; Ms. Terri Tanielian, the Special Assistant to the President for Veterans Affairs; Mr. Brett Bass of the Washington State Safer Homes Lethal Means Task Force; and Dr. Jeff Sung of the University of Washington.

SECNAV charged leaders to champion efforts to develop, promote and model the behaviors that will strengthen the readiness and resilience of the services. 

“Commit to learning more about mental health and suicide prevention and the role we respectively have in advancing quality of life, mental health and suicide prevention efforts,” said Del Toro. “Suicide and other destructive behaviors, aren’t singular, they don’t just impact the individual, but instead ravages though a ripple effect and touches every single one of us. We must shift the focus from existing barriers to solutions and reinforce innovative ways to talk about mental health and it starts here. A unique forum the first of its kind, where we lean into one another’s expertise.”

Off-site attendees included the Under Secretary of the Navy, the Assistant Secretaries of the Navy, the Chief of Naval Operations, the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, the Surgeon General and Chief of Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, the Chief of Chaplains, the Chaplain of the Marine Corps, the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, and senior representatives of Navy and Marine Corps manpower branches and family and education programs.


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