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More Understanding of Combat Stress

February 7, 2005


Carroll Williams, a Vietnam veteran who promotes veterans programs at the American Legion, urges soldiers returning from combat to get help. "I would tell them, if they have concerns, to share them with other people, talk about it, and if you find yourself falling by the wayside, seek professional help," said Williams.

Studies of Vietnam veterans, which were not conducted until 10 to 20 years after the war, reported 15 percent of male soldiers still had symptoms of PTSD years later and 30 percent reported having symptoms at some point after the war.

The lack of sleep, high levels of stress, long deployments, and 24-hour-a-day operations are very stressful on a soldier, even those not in regular firefights. The mental strain of living in a combat environment, referred to as combat stress, doesn't immediately subside when a soldier returns home. Instead, it is often compounded with the realization that an entire year has gone by and a lot has changed while the soldier was deployed.

"It has taken a while to re-adjust," said Sharpe, the returned reservist. "You're still thinking of the way things were when you left, and you come back and realize the people have moved on, you know, it's not the same. Sometimes, you wonder where your place is."

In the summer of 2002, five soldiers at Fort Bragg murdered their wives after returning from Afghanistan. Two of the soldiers also committed suicide. At that time, soldiers returning from fierce combat in Afghanistan received the same decompression training as soldiers in peacekeeping missions in Kosovo and Bosnia. But after the Fort Bragg murders, the Army re-vamped its entire program.

Now, before re-deploying, all soldiers go through a medical screening, which includes questions about their sleep habits, anxiety levels, and other issues that serve as warning signs for post-deployment emotional problems. All soldiers receive a series of classes on suicide prevention, dealing with depression, and adjusting to family life before they re-deploy.

Even soldiers returning home for two weeks through the R&R program, meet with a military chaplain before they get on a plane and see their families. When the unit arrives back in the United States or its home station overseas, the classes are re-enforced. Some soldiers feel the classes are repetitive and have nicknamed them the "don't beat your wife class," but others find it useful.

"I experienced many of the things they said we could expect upon arrival. It helped me feel like the decompression process was normal," said Kamps, who served as a prison guard in Iraq. "I was always on my guard [in Iraq], because of the close contact I had with the prisoners and the fear of being attacked," she continued, explaining why it has been difficult for her to adjust to civilian life.




Most soldiers with minor combat stress will feel more "normal" over time, experts say. But for soldiers and family members who need counseling, the Department of Defense has contracted with Military OneSource to provide counseling. Soldiers and family members can call a toll-free number and speak with a councilor, 24 hours a day, or schedule up to six free counseling sessions with a social worker in their community through the program. (The Military OneSource toll-free number is 1-800-342-9647 in the United States, and for international calls, toll-free at 1-800-3429-6477.)

The soldiers interviewed all expressed confidence that things would get easier but added they realize that their long deployments have had an impact on their mental health. "It interrupts your life," Davis said.


Here is some more information that deals with seeing the signs of combat stress.This information is for your use to look inside yourself and say "Do I Have these feeling? SHOULD I TRY TO FIND HELP OR WILL THAT PUT A LABEL ON ME AS MENTAL CASE?! [NO, make sick call, talk to your chaplain or just walk in to mental health, a Vet Center and ask for help.] Does it show in the people around me that I could offer help?" These stress will be with you every day you are walking the streets on patrol, at night where you may have to face incoming mortar rounds, or driving in a convoy on high risk roads.

Stress Can Become a Problem

Repeated stress drains and wears down your body and mind. Stress is like starting a car engine or pushing the accelerator pedal to speed up. If you keep revving up the car, you'll burn out the starter and wear out both the brakes and the engine. Burnout occurs when repeated stress is not balanced by healthy time outs for genuine relaxation. Stress need not be a problem if you manage it by smoothly and calmly entering or leaving life's fast lane.

Please go over this information for your personal use. If you can learn to understand the stress and pressures placed on you while on patrol, the faster you will experience in the reduction symptoms!
Please stop by this page to have a look at the Precondition to Combat stress and Post-traumatic stress!
The information is divided into two sections:
War debriefers Counter Combat Stress

While the second page gives information of the BICEPS Principles, the BICEPS approach uses six elements to aid in recovery of combat stress itself.

These pages have been taken from both government (DoD) and military (Army) sources. Please consider this while you visit them!

Combat Stress Control

Stress Management Critical [New]


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