Patt Morrison Asks

Megan P. Tatu, a good soldier

Major General Megan Tatu

Major General Megan Tatu was recently promoted to the rank of two-star general and commander of the 79th Sustainment Support Command base. (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times / March 14, 2013)

At about 10 o'clock at night we saw a [test video] picture. I came back at 3 in the morning and they said, "We lost the video bridge." But I did listen to it. I could hear when his name was called.

It's come out that military women are sexually assaulted at twice the rate of civilian women. What do you make of that?

I'm certainly aware of the testimony.

As a colonel, I dealt with [it] and followed what the Army laid out for me: First and foremost, any victim of assault has access to care on the behavioral health front as well as the physical front. We took appropriate action; ensuring in this case that the [guilty] soldier was appropriately punished for the crime of assault. And it is a crime, pure and simple, and it eats at morale, it eats at good order and discipline, and it is not tolerated [under the rules].

Respect is a foundational Army value; if anyone is not adhering to military law or Army standards, then I'll take action.

You're now trying to curtail a rash of soldier suicides.

We are launching a comprehensive soldier and family campaign to give them tools, strategies, coping mechanisms to make them resilient. We deliver a message of life worth living, not focusing on the word "suicide," and reaching out, trying to get them resources.

How do you think the volunteer army is working?

The beauty of the voluntary army is just that, that you have individuals freely obligating themselves to support and defend the Constitution. The Army Reserve — we are citizen warriors. We are that connection from the Army to the civilian population.

Especially in a down economy, [the military] is a draw for a lot of young people. Post-9/11 you got those who felt that patriotic pride to serve, but when you have economic struggles, the military is a good resource for people.

Have attitudes toward the military changed since you enlisted in the 1970s?

When I was in ROTC at UCLA, we didn't wear our uniform for our military science classes during the week. The only time we had to get in uniform was once a quarter, and it was on a Saturday morning. That was a carry-over from the Vietnam era where it was not so respected. It went from that to the outreach I see now of civilians to our military. No matter where your political leanings may be, the realization is that the soldier, the Marine, the sailor — they're not deciding policy; they're defending the Constitution.

You felt that civilian connection when you left for Iraq.

The neighbors were all out, American flags on their houses. I was absolutely blown away. I ended up [driving] slowly and stopping and getting out and saying goodbye. On the radio was Michael Buble: "I want to go home."

patt.morrison@latimes.com

Follow Patt Morrison on Twitter @pattmlatimes

This interview was edited and excerpted from a taped transcript. An archive of Morrison's interviews can be found at latimes.com/pattasks.

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