View Full Version : Film explores combat stress

05-22-09, 07:57 AM
Film explores combat stress

5/21/2009 By Pfc. Jahn R. Kuiper , Marine Corps Base Quantico

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. — Approximately 120 Marines from Quantico and Henderson Hall came to see the video, Cover Me, which addressed the issue of combat operational stress. The film was screened at the Expeditionary Warfighting School May 14.

The video was sponsored by the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund who teamed with Gen. James T. Conway, the commandant of the Marine Corps, in hopes of mitigating the damage caused by the stress some Marines feel after returning from war.

The number of Marines who have suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder have increased. In 2003 approximately 200 Marines were diagnosed, and in 2007 2,114 Marines were diagnosed. In 2008, out of the Marines that took post-deployment screening, 14 percent showed signs of PTSD and half of those Marines were recommended for additional PTSD evaluation.

“I got tired of getting call from wives, mothers and friends who didn’t recognize who their Marine was anymore,” said Karen Guenther, the founder and executive director of the IMSFF. “We are hoping this video opens dialogue about combat operational stress. We want the Marines to know it’s OK to talk about. The Marine Corps is supporting them, it won’t hurt their career.”

“If you’re injured in a football game you get help for that injury,” said Dr. Thomas A. Gaskin, the branch head for Combat Operational Stress in the Marine Corps. “This is the same as any other injury. You heal and then you move on and get back on track.”

The commandant feels this is not limited only to a personal issue.

“This is a war fighting issue,” said Gaskin. “In the short term, it’s about force preservation for the mission and mission readiness. In the long term, it is about the Marines sacred duty to take care of their own and to preserve life.”

The small unit leader is the core to the Marine Corps program to combat stress. They are the ones who see the symptoms first and help their Marines. In every other branch combat stress is immediately handled by medical staff, but the Marine Corps is the only branch where the small unit leader handles the initial problem.

The success of the Marine Corps program is shown by comparison. From 2003 to 2007 the army had five times more cases of PTSD than the Marine Corps even though it is roughly three times bigger.

“The import thing to remember is that combat stress is more than PTSD,” said Gaskin. “Some Marines have brief reactions to combat stress and then quickly get better; in others, stress injuries will occur and they need medical help. The injury is not their fault. Even strong Marines can be injured by stress.”