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Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton

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Cognitive Fitness: new Pendleton course teaches Marines mental resilience

By Courtesy Story | Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton | November 13, 2020


Resilience – it’s been defined by the Department of Defense as the ability to withstand, recover and grow in the face of stressors and changing demands. Over the last few years, the military has focused on building the physical, mental and emotional resilience of service members as they face deployments and operations abroad.

In the Corps, Marines are required to attend annual suicide awareness training and leaders have gone to great lengths to eliminate the stigma behind reaching out for help. More and more resources have been made available to Marines as they work to overcome adversity, trauma, tragedy and stress.

As an additional tool to help address the challenge of building mental resilience, the Substance Abuse Rehabilitation Program, Treatment Programs Department, Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton, is working to develop a Cognitive Fitness Program that goes to individual units and uses a collection of prevention-based workshops that utilize the basics of cognitive behavioral therapy to enhance resilience, readiness and leadership for service members.

“Cognitive Fitness really provides service members with a foundation of therapeutic modalities within mental health,” said U.S. Navy Cmdr. Michael Kim, the SARP department head. “So, it really helps them understand their thought processes more effectively, how different stresses cause them to react and gives them a more positive way of dealing with the stress.”

The program’s goal is to develop Marines’ and leaders’ flexibility and emotional intelligence, along with giving them the tools to recognize and understand the actions and emotions of the service members around them.

“I think it’s important to be able to identify your feelings and understand how it effects your thoughts and behaviors in order to interact with your Marines appropriately, and understand how it affects the junior Marines as well,” said U.S. Marine Capt. Lauren Jarreau, an air support control officer with Marine Air Support Squadron 3, Marine Wing Communications Squadron 38, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

Cognitive Fitness is currently a pilot program, using MASS-3 and School of Infantry - West as test bed units, according to Kim. Taking the feedback from these units, SARP will eventually open the course to other commands aboard Pendleton.

“My hope is that the Marine Corps will see the positive benefits of Cognitive Fitness and implement it Marine Corps-wide,” said Kim. “Our first priority is taking care of Pendleton, and we will not turn any unit away.”