Everyone seems concerned about what we can do for the service members returning from the war to help them reintegrate and cope with stress. New programs, increased emphasis on families and more open discussion about Combat/Operational Stress, ASD (Acute Stress Disorder), and PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) have become the order of the day.
While I am pleased to see that there is concern, a recognized need, and action being taken to help our service members I feel that we are still missing the mark. When an individual enlists in the military we go to great ends to provide the very best possible training to teach these individuals how to be warriors and use the tools of war; hand to hand combat, close quarters combat, pistol and rifle marksmanship, and physical training to ensure that they have the stamina for the very demanding rigors of combat. Not only are they well trained, their job in peacetime is to hone those skills to a fine point and practice these skills so that they become second nature.
If we are truly committed to ensuring that our service members are prepared for war shouldn’t that also include mental and emotional preparation as well? Instead of dealing with Combat/Operational Stress and the other stress related disorders when our service members return why aren’t we training them from the start to recognize and deal with stress on a daily basis? Professional athletes utilize a training model that focuses 60% of their training on mental preparation which yields exceptional results, even in business this model has proven to be very successful.
What I propose is to train our service members upon entry to the service in stress management and give them the skills and opportunity to use and hone them as well as the other skills necessary to be a warrior. It only makes sense that someone trained in recognizing and dealing with stress will cope much better than someone who is untrained. If you look closely at the training our special forces receive you will notice that how well they can deal with stress in one of the primary focuses of their training and selection.
We can take this one step further by including the families of our service members in this process and help empower them to deal with the stressors of war, deployment and separation. It only stands to reason that if the families can cope better the there will be even less stress for the service member to deal with and increase their abilities even more.