Maintenance window scheduled to begin at February 14th 2200 est. until 0400 est. February 15th


Forgot Password?

    Defense Visual Information Distribution Service Logo

    #TimeToTalk: Robert O’Berg shares his story and tackles military’s PTSD stigma

    #TimeToTalk: Robert O’Berg shares his story and tackles military’s PTSD stigma

    Photo By Cpl. Alison Dostie | Retired U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Robert O’Berg poses with his service dog, Harvest, on...... read more read more



    Story by Cpl. Alison Dostie 

    Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton

    Waking up in the middle of the night, gasping for air. Mouth becomes dry, the minimal air that enters the body possesses a foul odor combining fuel and burning trash. Visual distortions fill the dark room. Cold sweat beads down the body. A racing mind, continuously paranoid and hypervigilant. Unable to fall asleep for the next three to four hours. Once falling back asleep, the vicious cycle will persist for the rest of the night. Leading to an already exhausted body in the morning, head pounding from constant migraines, only causing more intense mood swings.

    For retired U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Robert O’Berg, that is how post-traumatic stress disorder manifests within him. PTSD can look different from person to person, but the effects on someone's life remain the same.

    After the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001, claimed the lives of Robert’s cousins, Dennis Patrick O’Berg and Christopher Mozzilo, two New York City Fire Department firemen, Robert enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2003 to honor them and began his journey to earning the coveted title, Marine. Once graduating from boot camp and Marine Combat Training, Naval Aircrew Candidate School and Naval Air Maintenance Training, Robert was designated as a CH-53E crew chief and mechanic with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 465, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

    Robert would then complete two deployments to Al Anbar and Iraq, both with different units. While with HMH-465, Robert deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from February to September 2005. In 2006 Robert’s unit was attached to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 165, forming part of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s aviation combat element, and he was deployed to Iraq again. Both deployments were direct combat operations.

    “I want to personify, ‘Ductus Exemplo,’ or lead by example,” Robert stated.

    After years of being in the Marine Corps and constantly striving to be the best leader he could be, Robert was driven to continue his career as an officer and submitted for and was accepted into the Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program. Once commissioned through MECEP in 2011, Robert then completed two additional deployments. While with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, he traveled to Oman, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Bahrain. With the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, he was sent to Okinawa, Japan and the Philippines. Through those many years of duty and countless deployments, Robert had sustained a multitude of physical wounds as well as mental injuries.

    It wasn’t until 2020, the isolating times of COVID-19, that the effects of PTSD truly affected Robert’s life.

    “I was in Okinawa when COVID occurred, I had just completed stateside training, and I had been quarantined for about 40 straight days. I was approximately 17 or 18 years into my career, and that was the first time I had truly slowed down or had time for myself,” said Robert. “That is when I began to struggle.”

    Due to his training, Robert had to quarantine in his bedroom for 14 days to ensure he did not pass any illnesses to his family members; he then had to quarantine in his house for an additional 14 days to ensure he didn’t pass those illnesses to anyone outside his residence. Once quarantined in his bedroom, the only time Robert could connect with his family was when they would bring him food. Unable to spend the quality time with his family that he had hoped for, he began to experience sleep disturbances and nightmares. Once returning to work, another service member had COVID-related symptoms, causing Robert to be quarantined for an additional 14 days. Once the quarantine officially ended, Robert returned to his daily routine at 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade. While attached to this unit as the lead Logistics Planner, Robert implemented a Joint Logistics Professional Military Education Program as an Expeditionary Logistics Instructor, trained by the Marine Corps Logistics Operations Group in 29 Palms, California. He also planned exercise Yama Sakura 77 and 79, along with Balikatan 2019 and worked future operations for the Defence Policy Review Initiative and the Relocation of III MEF forces to Camp Blaz, Guam. The grueling hours and weak unit cohesion caused a strain on Robert. He added that solid unit cohesion or trust could be essential in providing a resiliency that can help protect against some traumas someone can be exposed to. When Robert realized he could not be physically or mentally present and in the moment with his wife and three children, he knew he needed to get help and fast.

    “Once I left the enlisted ranks and transitioned to become an officer, it completely changed my perspective as a leader,” said Robert. “You can't take care of other people if you don't care for yourself.”

    When Robert recognized he could not move forward without getting help, he began seeking medical attention, focusing on his mental health. Walking into the emergency room in Okinawa, the help Robert thought he would get, was unfortunately unavailable in the area. To ensure he received the care he sought, the Marine Corps transported him back to the United States, where he was temporarily assigned to Bravo Company, Wounded Warrior Battalion - West, Wounded Warrior Regiment. Once Robert began his treatment plan at Naval Medical Center San Diego, he was then permanently transferred to WWBn. Robert recalled that WWBn. was able to provide him with the safe space, structure and assistance needed to begin to unpack the traumatic baggage he had been carrying throughout his years in the Marine Corps. All his care was monitored by a recovery care team, recovery care coordinator and a licensed clinical social worker, ensuring Robert had everything he needed, administratively and medically, as a recovering service member, including his newest therapeutic 4-legged companion, Harvest.

    Harvest was placed with Robert through an organization that works with WWBn. as a psychiatric service dog trained to assist people with anxiety disorders, depression or PTSD. Harvest is educated in Compression Therapy or Deep Weighted Therapy or Simulation. Deep Weighted Pressure Therapy or Simulation is a tactile stimulation provided as gentle pressure to the body via tugging, stroke, lying across the lap or wrapping, that relaxes the nervous system. This can be applied through different devices: massage tools, hands, swaddles or psychiatric service dogs. If the therapy is provided properly, it has an organizing and calming effect on the nervous system and makes the recipient feel calm and peaceful. For Robert, Harvest’s presence releases dopamine and serotonin, which are often depleted with Major Depressive Disorder. Harvest is also able to read his emotions, comfort him when he is down or force him out of bed. Robert stated that being paired with Harvest was the most beneficial resource available to him.

    Unable to recover from both the physical and mental injuries in six months, during his Medical Evaluation board, Robert was found unfit for duty and medically retired at 19 years and seven months. Now that he is successfully retired, Robert is currently pursuing a Master of Business Administration degree at the University of Southern California and has been admitted into two doctoral programs. He is also delighted to spend more time with his wife, Nicole and their three children: Nathaniel, Abigail and Andrew. Although he has hung up his uniform, Robert’s work with the Marine Corps is not over. He plans to help in any way he can. The most important thing to him is getting a positive conversation going to increase resources and create a more accommodating climate within the ranks to get military members the mental health resources they may need.

    “We have sayings like, ‘Never leave a Marine behind,’ and we don’t. But it can’t be only used in the battlefield context,” said Robert. “Mental health and wellness start with the individual, but we need to take care of our brothers and sisters to our left and right.”

    Robert has also created the hashtag, #TimeToTalk, to be used across various social media platforms. He continues to work to create an environment where active-duty service members can safely talk about mental health and find the resources they need.

    When asked if there was one piece of advice he would give Marines, Robert stated, “Don't suffer in silence. If you need help, ask for help. If you are in a position to help, do so. Know your Marines well enough to know when they are not well.”

    To receive chaplain services at Camp Pendleton, call (760)725-4700. For the Community Counseling center, call (760)763-3222; Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton Mental Health, call (760) 719-3312/3016; Military Crisis Line, call 988 and press 1 or text 838255; Military One Source, call (800)342-9647.



    Date Taken: 03.24.2023
    Date Posted: 03.29.2023 13:56
    Story ID: 441174
    Location: CAMP PENDLETON, CA, US 
    Hometown: BROOKLYN, NY, US

    Web Views: 681
    Downloads: 4