For the fifth consecutive year, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton observes “Combat Operational Stress Awareness Month.”
Marine and Family Programs provided military service members with a Combat Operational Stress resource and information booth at an entrance to Pendleton’s Marine Corps Exchange, June 15, in effort to shed light on Combat Operational Stress.
“(During deployments operations) your mind and body are exposed to different elements and you can get set in a certain way of thinking,” said Christopher Lawrence, outreach coordinator and group facilitator with the Veterans Village of San Diego - Warrior Traditions Program.
It's a mentality that may not be conducive to life in a non-combative environment, said Lawrence, who’s 2007 deployment to Iraq came to an abrupt halt when an improvised explosive device detonated during a dismount patrol operation, wounding him.
"When you come back (to the United States) you don't always need your guard up," said Lawrence. "Getting appropriate counseling from people that understand and are experienced with (COS) can help teach you when to turn the switch on or off."
With the release of the Marine Administrative message 597/11, battalion-sized units are required to implement Operation Stress Control and Readiness “OSCAR” training. The training builds teams of Marine leaders, religious ministry personnel and medical professionals.
“The OSCAR team prepares unit leaders and mentors to prevent, identify and manage COS (among subordinates) as early as possible,” said Julian Garibay, the combat and operations stress control program specialist with I Marine Expeditionary Force. "Now we're giving the education and the tools to those Marine leaders so that they will have the awareness and direction to assist peers (in need of guidance).
According to a Department of Defense Mental Health Advisory Team survey, 49 percent of all Marines deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan thought they would be treated differently by leadership if they sought counseling.
"Marines tend to have a stigma about COS, which is similar to the stigma about alcoholism," said Garibay. "Neither (the alcoholic nor the COS affected Marine) wants anyone to know about their condition."
With so many counseling services standing by, service members have the opportunity to receive the help in which they are seeking in a discreet and effective manner. Signs and symptoms of combat stress may be difficult to detect, some common indicators are disassociation, mood swings and even emotional, verbal or physical outbursts.
For additional information about combat operational stress, service members and their families can contact the following sources:
DSTRESS Hotline (877) 476-7734
Marine & Family Services Counseling Services (760) 725-9051
Camp Pendleton Deployment Health Clinic (760) 763-6483/1603
Military One Source (800) 342-9647 or militaryonesource.com