Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Operational Stress Program Helps Marines Help Each Other

Regional Command Southwest

Story by Sgt. James Mercure

FORWARD OPERATING BASE WHITEHOUSE, Afghanistan - If a Marine gets injured in combat, the response by those he serves with is immediate. If a Marine has problems handling operational stress, they are there for him just as quickly.

To help Marines identify the stages of operational stress, the Operational Stress Control and Readiness program is taught to all infantry battalions across the Marine Corps. Keeping with a long-standing tradition of small unit leadership, the OSCAR program teaches leaders at all levels how to get their Marines the help they may need.

“The OSCAR program is an effective tool we use to help our own,” said 1st Sgt. James Robertson, OSCAR instructor and Weapons Company 1st sergeant, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, and Nicholasville, Ky., native. “It teaches all Marines not to just stand by and watch a Marine struggle. You may be a lance corporal and he may be a sergeant, but you should still step up and talk to him if you see a change.”

The OSCAR program has a four-tier color system that helps quickly identify Marines who need a hand.

“If a Marine is in the green zone, he is good to go. If he is in the yellow, something is bothering him and someone should talk to him,” Robertson said. “If the Marine is in the orange or red zone he needs assistance. The goal is to not let that Marine have a chance to slip into the orange or red zones. The goal is to let him know you’re there for him when a problem surfaces and get him the help he needs.”

The ultimate goal of the OSCAR program is to keep Marines and sailors healthy and in the fight through prevention, early identification and intervention with stress-related problems, outlined in Marine Administrative Messages 667/09 and 597/11.

“’No Marine left behind’ doesn’t just apply to the battlefield,” said Navy Lt. Keith Russell, Command Chaplain for 1st Bn., 8th Marines, and Kansas City, Mo., native. “Sometimes you have to help pull a Marine off his own battlefield and get him the medical or spiritual help or a combination thereof. But, sometimes it’s just about noticing a change in the Marine’s behavior and asking what’s going on.”

To complement the OSCAR program, the Marines and sailors of 1st Bn., 8th Marines, have refresher courses throughout their deployment and long after to keep operational stress control identification and response as an important part of the warrior culture.

“We have warrior transition briefs at the end of the deployment and every 30 days after the battalion returns home to keep reiterating to be personally aware for your family and friends you serve with and get help for you or them if it’s needed,” Russell said.

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