January 9, 2009:
While the U.S. Army has done much to detect, and treat PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), it has also made a determined effort to prevent it in the first place. From the beginning of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, the army took many measures to ease the impact of combat stress. That's why combat troops in Iraq and Afghanistan often sleep in air conditioned quarters, have Internet access, lots of amenities, and a two week vacation (anywhere) in the middle of their combat tour.
But now there's now a more direct program to help troops avoid PTSD. It's called Battlemind, and it involves telling the troops all the army knows about the things that cause combat stress, and how to avoid them. This is all based on information obtained from thousands of combat veterans.
Doe example, Battlemind stresses the need to stay connected with your buddies (talk about stressful experiences), how best to use aggression and how to control your emotions in combat. There is frank discussion of those things that irritate, or even anger, troops in combat, and cause harmful stress. Things like the mania for secrecy, military discipline and the stresses of responsibility. There are lots of little tricks for dealing with this, invented (or, more commonly, re-invented) by troops who have been in combat.
The main goals of Battlemind are to increase self-confidence and mental toughness. This is done, quite simply, by telling troops, especially those going into combat for the first time, what works and why. When the message is delivered by combat experienced troops, it is taken to heart. After Battlemind, troops experience combat for the first time knowing better how to handle it.