VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Navy Expeditionary Combat Command hosted the Operational Stress Control for Leaders course for senior command leadership on Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Oct. 11.
During the course, more than 120 officers and chief petty officers participated in attendance. Leaders learned how to notice changes in behavior and functions resulting from prolonged exposure to severe stress. They were also taught zones of the stress-continuum model, the importance of communication between caregivers and leaders, and their responsibility for navigating operational stress.
“The Operational Stress Control Model was one topic covered, but particular emphasis was made on leadership roles in relation to stress management and how to effectively spot potential issues and address them in a correct manner,” said Master Chief Master at Arms Bob Hewitt, one of the course attendees.
As part of the training, command leaders were provided scenarios that led to open discussions about real stress issues in a focused and personal setting.
“Every training on this topic gives a leader more tools for the leadership tool bag,” said Hewitt. “To hear discussions on the various issues that were raised made me more confident that I will be able to identify stressors and work as leader to eliminate unneeded or unintended stress.”
The discussions provided an approachable environment to help participants grasp simple but effective concepts to help themselves and their sailors navigate stressful situations on a daily basis.
“First, as a leader, I have a responsibility to take care of the sailors that are in my charge,” said Hewitt. “This training gives leaders the tools to do that task. Second, I have a responsibility to the mission of the command. If I can spot stress issues before they result in the loss of the sailor, I can help the command stay on mission and on task.”
The stress-continuum model is a tool to identify how sailors react under stressful situations with defined stages called zones; green is good-to-go, yellow is stress reaction, orange is stress injury and red is stress illness. These zones provide sailors and leaders a visual tool for assessing stress responses and practical steps to take to mitigate stress injuries.
The training incorporated the model to keep focus on prevention more than treatment to emphasize the importance of recognizing the early stages of stress. These skills will be used to assist sailors in staying in the “green zone” of the model.
“As leaders, we really have to understand stress and be able to deal with it ourselves,” said Rear Adm. Michael P. Tillotson, commander, NECC. “The thing I really want everyone to get out of this training is how you’re going to recognize stress and how to help those that are undergoing certain amounts of stress, get back to the zone where they can deal with it rationally and where they can recover from it.”
Tillotson pioneered the development and implementation of NAVOSC-Lead and hosted the initial pilot phase of the course in 2010. After reviewing the results of the pilot phase, Tillotson directed that all operational units under his command receive the training. NECC became the first Type Command and Navy enterprise to make the training mandatory among all NECC operational commands and units.
“The Navy Operational Stress Control Leaders course is important because it is imperative that we keep our fighting forces as physically and mentally healthy as possible,” said Tillotson. “In line with our commitment to excellence in leadership, I made this course a Fiscal Year 2012 foundational skills training requirement for all E-7 and above. Building resilient sailors and commands, and increasing the acceptance of seeking help for stress-related injuries and illnesses, continues to be a top leadership priority."
This year, two Naval Operations-directed Mobile Training Teams were established (east and west coast) and have pushed the (NAVOSC-Lead) course out to the fleet Navy-wide.
NECC is an enduring force providing capability across the full range of military operations in the maritime strategy to include forward presence, maritime security and power projection, now and in the future.