A Battle Buddy is a partner assigned to a soldier in the United States Army. Each Battle Buddy, sometimes shorted between individuals to simply "battle" (e.g., "Hey battle, meet me at 0730"), is expected to assist his or her partner both in and out of combat. Most participating soldiers have reported satisfaction and have agreed that the Army should implement the system fully, although there have been cons reported as well. A Battle Buddy is not only intended for company, but also for the reduction of suicide; since each watches his partner's actions, a Battle Buddy can save their fellow soldier's life by noticing negative thoughts and feelings and intervening to provide help.
Advantages and disadvantages
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Evaluations of the Battle Buddy system have identified the following advantages:
- Reduces rates of suicide and sexual assaults
- Buddies keep each other informed about key instructions and information
- Promotes cooperative problem-solving
- Increases morale
- Encourages soldiers and motivates increased confidence
- Decreases stress
- Eases transition to the military lifestyle
- Improves safety in training and combat
- Improves communication for soldiers not fluent in English
- Promotes better leadership skills
The following potential disadvantages have also been identified:
- Personality conflicts can cause tension and decrease positive effects
- Adds extra responsibilities
- Interferes with desired activities
- Requires the commitment of caring for another person
Soldiers were asked to evaluate and rate their satisfaction with the "Battle Buddy Team Assignment Program" in order to gauge whether the program should be implemented by the Army. Surveys were created to assess:
- The role of personality variables
- Self-assessments of successes due to Battle Buddies
- Potential situational influences
- Buddy interactions/assessments
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Suicide prevention is a major objective of the Battle Buddy system. In 2006, the suicide rate in the United States Army increased by 37% and, by 2009, there were 344 completed suicides by military personnel (211 of whom were members of the Army). In response, efforts to identify suicide prevention initiatives have increased; military and legislative officials found the assignment of Battle Buddies to be an effective method of decreasing military suicide rates.
Several soldiers have been saved from suicide by their Battle Buddies, demonstrating the effectiveness of this suicide prevention program. For example, in August 2008, while the pair was deployed in Iraq, Specialist Albert Godding prevented his Buddy, Specialist Joe Sanders, from shooting himself in the head. Having recently learned that his wife wanted a divorce, Sanders put an M-4 carbine under his chin and pulled the trigger, but the gun failed to fire. Godding, noticing that his Battle Buddy was distraught, had removed the firing pin earlier in the day, thus disarming the weapon and saving Sanders' life.
Godding would eventually receive the Meritorious Service Medal for his actions. After the thwarted attempt, Sanders sought counseling. Two years later – at which point he had been promoted and gone on to continue a successful military career – Sanders, spoke publicly about the experience, expressing gratitude for his Buddy's actions: "If it wasn't for him I wouldn't have gotten to experience my fiancée. I wouldn't have gotten to lead troops, or attend schools and learn. Those are things I love to do."
The Army has also reported another Battle Buddy success story involving Specialist James V. Dunz and another soldier named Eddie. Noticing that Eddie was on the ground, being bullied by a group of other soldiers, Dunz intervened and helped Eddie up to his feet. Dunz and Eddie would eventually become Battle Buddies. Years later, at Eddie's retirement ceremony, he revealed that he had been planning to commit suicide before Dunz intervened to help him. In his retirement ceremony speech, Eddie stated: "Retirement is a time to thank those who helped you make it through all the tough years: your parents, your family, even your sergeants—but mostly your friends. I am here to tell all of you that being a Battle Buddy to someone is the best gift you can give him."
- Duckworth, Tammy. "Mental Health in the Army." All Psychology Careers | The Psychology Career and Education Center. 2011. Web. 25 Jan. 2011. <http://www.allpsychologycareers.com/topics/mental-health-army.html>
- Ramsberger, Peter. "Evaluation of the Buddy Team Assignment Program." Army. Army.mil, Oct. 2002. Web. 24 Jan. 2011. <http://www.hqda.army.mil/ari/pdf/SN-2003-01.pdf>
- Allen, Reginald E. "Command Battle Buddy Program." Army. Army.mil. Web. 24 Jan. 2011. <http://www.hood.army.mil/3d_acr/Regiment/PolicyLetters/Command%20Battle%20Buddy%20Program.pdf>.
- Dunz, James V. "What It Means to Be a Battle Buddy." Army. Army.mil, July–Aug. 2010. Web. 24 Jan. 2011. <http://www.wood.army.mil/engrmag/PDFs%20for%20May-Aug%2010/Dunz.pdf>
- "Army Veteran Albert Godding Prevents Suicide Of Friend Joseph Sanders « More Than Coping." More Than Coping. 6 July 2010. Web. 24 Jan. 2011. <http://morethancoping.wordpress.com/2010/07/06/army-veteran-albert-godding-prevents-suicide-of-friend-joseph-sanders/>.
- Drake, Bruce. "Army Suicides Grow, but This Soldier Was Saved." Politics News, Elections Coverage, Political Analysis and Opinion. Mar. 2010. Web. 24 Jan. 2011. <http://www.politicsdaily.com/2010/03/12/army-suicides-grow-but-this-soldier-was-saved/>
- Morgan, Zach. "Soldier Saves Battle Buddy's Life with Simple Act of Caring." The United States Army Homepage. 14 May 2010. Web. 25 Jan. 2011. <http://www.army.mil/-news/2010/05/14/39171-soldier-saves-battle-buddys-life-with-simple-act-of-caring/>.
- Military.com, Finding Your Battle Buddy, Tara Crooks, 11 December 2007