Transition program isn’t just another box to check off
CAMP COURTNEY, Okinawa — Creating a culture where troops are given time to resettle into daily life and know it’s OK to seek help is what the Warrior Transition program is all about, say Marine Corps leaders.
This program “is not a check in the box” for Marines, said 3rd Marine Division Navy chaplain Capt. Conrad Targonski.
Over the past few years, the Warrior Transition concept has evolved into the Marine Corps Combat Operational Stress Control Program, detailed in Marine Administrative Message 112/07.
The program’s goal is to “provide active and reserve Marines, sailors and family members with the tools to master the stressors of military life … to plan, train for and implement means to prevent, identify and holistically treat stress injuries,” according to the message.
And it starts even before they leave for combat, Targonski said.
Within 30 days of deploying, Marines attend briefings about the stresses of combat, self-monitoring for those stresses, applying psychological first aid and seeking help, he said.
In theater, leaders conduct after-action reviews to help Marines deal with stresses. At the end of a tour, units take a three- to five-day operational pause.
Upon return, they immediately have four days of liberty and then attend the five-day Warrior Transition class, Targonski said.
Classes include standards of conduct, anger and stress management, suicide awareness and information about alcohol abuse, gambling and handling finances, he said.
Then within 90 to 180 days of returning, Marines attend another class on coping with post-deployment adjustment problems and seeking help.
The 3rd Marine Division has taken it a step further, creating a new position called operational stress control and readiness, or OSCARs, Targonski said.
This is a volunteer billet for enlisted leaders and officers who become the “go-to” Marine within the smaller units for those seeking help with transitioning or stress, he said.
The transitioning process has to become part of the warrior culture, Targonski said.
“This is going to be the rest of our lives,” stressed Targonski, who said he is still discovering issues he has to deal with from his own 14-month Iraq deployment a couple of years ago. “The rest of our lives are going to be affected by this.”