News: OSCAR course teaches Marines about 'invisible injuries'
Story by Cpl. Kenneth Jasik
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Stress can affect anyone, but Marines who have a high operational tempo are often more susceptible to it.
To prevent stress from overcoming a Marine, more than 100 service members with Combat Logistics Regiment 17, 1st Marine Logistics Group, participated in an Operational Stress Control and Readiness course here, Aug. 4.
"What makes OSCAR training important is that it is truly a war-fighting issue in the sense that we lose Marines to physical injuries and other Marines need to take his work load," said Capt. Alexis Sanchez, executive officer, Headquarters Company, CLR-17, 1st MLG. "We need to prevent Marines from becoming mentally injured due to operational stress."
The course curriculum is directed to Marines of all ranks, and teaches Marines how to handle different situations they may encounter in all kinds of settings, whether it be returning from a mission in Afghanistan or during a lunch break in garrison.
"OSCAR is training created by Marines to provide mentors down to the fire-team level all the way up the chain of command," said Sanchez, from Paterson, N.J. "It gives commanders the ability to know that they have Marines looking out for each other across the command."
The training is meant to be different from traditional suicide awareness in that OSCAR focuses more on how to prevent mental injuries at the small-unit level. Prevention measures range from talking to the person to assisting him or her in seeking help at a higher level.
“This class wasn’t so much about the warning signs of suicide,” said Cpl. Byron M. Solano, chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist, CLR-17, 1st MLG. “It taught us what we can do as small-unit leaders to keep our Marines in the fight and how to deal with certain situations and when to intervene.”
During the course, OSCAR instructors said the training built upon the leadership principles which guide all Marines in everything they do.
"I think what makes it different is that it brings to the forefront that Marines like to fight, but they do not like confrontations,” said Sanchez. “As Marines, the term 'suck it up' is something we hear from boot camp. What OSCAR training does is it challenges that train of thought. It’s no longer 'suck it up,' but it's 'hey, if there's something wrong with you we need to talk about it and try to fix it because having you in the fight is what is important."
The OSCAR program aims to tear down the stereotypes associated with mental injuries, said Sanchez.
"It helps remove the stigma that if you have mental injury or if you seek help that it's going to have a negative impact on your career," said Sanchez.
The Marines who took the class learned the truth about mental injuries and how it’s possible to start the healing by simply talking to others or seeing a mental health professional.
"The OSCAR training taught me a lot about mental health," said Solano, 20, from Reno, Nev. "It's OK to seek help if you need it."