Suicide Intervention Officer course trains leaders to help fellow Soldiers in crisis

Suicide Intervention Officer course provides training, resources
Soldiers from around the Virginia National Guard attend a Suicide Intervention Officer Course Aug. 25, 2020, at the State Military Reservation in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The three-day course, which is offered bi-monthly by the Virginia National Guard Suicide Prevention Program, provides training and resources for unit SIOs to help Soldiers who are thinking of or acting on suicide. (U.S. National Guard photo by A.J. Coyne)

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — More than 20 Soldiers from around the Virginia National Guard participated in a Suicide Intervention Officer Course Aug. 25-27, 2020, at the State Military Reservation in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

The three-day course, which is offered bi-monthly by the Virginia National Guard Suicide Prevention Program, provides training and resources for unit SIOs to help Soldiers who are thinking of or acting on suicide.

SIO training consists of two classes- Ask Care Escort- Suicide Intervention and Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training, according to Ashley Parsons-Crowder, the Virginia Army National Guard Suicide Prevention Program Manager 

“ACE-SI is a first-line leader training focused on developing a mindset of helping your unit develop protective factors while battling stigma around asking for help regarding suicide,” she said. “ASIST is a two-day training focused on recognizing signs, providing a skilled intervention, and developing a safety plan to keep someone alive and safe from suicide.”

The ACE-SI program provides Soldiers with the awareness, knowledge and skills necessary to intervene with those at risk for suicide. The purpose of ACE is to help Soldiers and junior leaders become more aware of steps they can take to prevent suicides and confident in their ability to do so.

ACE encourages Soldiers to directly and honestly question any battle buddy who exhibits suicidal behavior. The training helps Soldiers avoid letting their fears of suicide govern their actions to prevent suicides.

The emphasis in ASIST is teaching suicide first-aid to help a person at risk stay safe and seek further help as needed. Participants learn to use a suicide intervention model to identify persons with thoughts of suicide, seek a shared understanding of reasons for dying and living, develop a safe plan based upon a review of risk, be prepared to do follow-up, and become involved in suicide-safer community networks.

“The training was very informative and well delivered,” said Staff. Sgt. Jesse McCarrel, who is assigned to the State Military Reservation in Virginia Beach. “I will urge my Soldiers, peers and subordinates alike to take advantage of this course if given the opportunity. Just as I believe that ‘everyone is a safety on the range,’ so too should everyone be an SIO.”

McCarrel said he took the class because of an experience with a battle buddy who died by suicide.

“I can remember that no one saw it coming. ACE would have really helped in those days. As well as having an SIO to help guide him back from the edge.”

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Sandra Furry Williams, assigned to the Fort Belvoir-based Headquarters Battalion, 29th Infantry Division, took the course because she wanted to learn how to recognize the warning signs of suicide and improve her ability to help Soldiers. 

“The SIO course made me much more confident,” she said. “The training covered a lot of heavy material in a comfortable, positive environment, and revealed resources I hadn’t thought of before.  If more Soldiers of all ranks would receive this training, and learn how intervention works, we could improve readiness, to say the least.”


September is Suicide Prevention Month and VAARNG Suicide Prevention Office asks everyone to please take time this month both while on duty and off to consider how suicide affects our Soldiers and families, and commit to doing your part to encourage one another toward a resilient and productive life.

“Every Soldier should have been trained in ACE: Ask, Care, Escort,” Parsons-Crowder said. “It is an easy acronym to use when helping someone in need. If you are struggling, or identify someone else who is, please do not hesitate to reach out for help and to help.”

Resilience, Risk Reduction, Suicide Prevention Program After Hours Number: 434-264-1142

Veterans Crisis Hotline: 800-273-8255

Jonathan Goldwire, Psychological Health: 434-480-6463

Chaplain Services: 434-480-2083