CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan --
They spend time away from their families and friends; they wear the same clothes every day; they work seven days a week with no holiday breaks.
Whether it is an infantryman operating in a remote area of Afghanistan who frequently engages the enemy or an administrative clerk who works in an office at Camp Leatherneck keeping track of personnel in their unit, service members who deploy to a combat zone are under a greater amount of stress than the average American.
“We are all different, and we all handle stress differently,” said Master Sgt. Jackie Canaday, staff noncommissioned officer of 1st Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward).
Canaday spoke to a group of Marines and sailors during Operational Stress Control and Readiness (OSCAR) training at Camp Leatherneck, May 10.
Combat Operational Stress disorder is a risk all service members face. To combat the threat, the Marine Corps works to build resiliency in Marines and sailors to keep them mission-ready. Through programs like OSCAR, Marines and sailors learn to identify problems with stress as early as possible. Additionally, the program helps to fight the notion that personnel who ask for help are “weak.”
“I am young; I am flawed, and I am susceptible to this,” said Canaday during his speech to the group. “These are the lessons I have learned and what I am trying to teach you.”
An EOD technician’s job requires them to risk their lives every day. After coming home in one piece from each deployment, Canaday said he compared himself to his fellow brothers who returned to the U.S. missing limbs, or to those who were killed in combat.
“I told myself that I don’t rate to have [Combat Operational Stress Disorder]; I don’t rate to have problems or feel depressed,” said Canaday.
He went on to explain what he felt like after a situation back home finally forced him to accept that he needed help.
“I hit a wall, and I hit it hard,” said Canaday. “I don’t care who you are — a grunt, a cook, a guy that works on the flight line 20 hours a day — there is a wall and we’re all running toward it.”
The experiences faced in a combat zone can sometimes make it difficult for service members to relate to people back in the U.S.
“The way you see things, the way you think about things, the way you react to things, is different,” said Canaday. “Being out here changes you.”
OSCAR training will remain a method to combat the effects of stress on Marines and sailors. As a brotherhood, troop welfare always comes first, and looking out for other Marines and Sailors is a top priority. Canaday went on to speak about the importance of getting past the wall of stress that builds up.
“It may not happen now, it may not happen tomorrow, it may not happen when you get back to the states, but that wall is coming,” said Canaday. “And on the other side of that wall is the rest of your life.”