LEADERS' MANUAL FOR COMBAT STRESS CONTROL
PREVENTION OF BATTLE FATIGUE
In combat, battle fatigue is inevitable but high battle fatigue casualty rates are not. History shows
that highly trained and cohesive units with good leadership have had fewer than one such
casualty for every ten WIA, even in intensely heavy fighting. This is significantly fewer than the
usual one per four or five in moderate intensity battle and one per two or three in intense
fighting. By knowing what factors in the tactical and overall situation increase battle fatigue,
leaders and unit members can take action to counteract those factors. They must share the
burden, resolve internal conflicts, build unit cohesion, and reduce stress. The same measures,
plus positive adherence to discipline and the Law of Land Warfare, also prevent misconduct
stress behaviors which could defeat the purpose of the mission. We can overcome the stressors of
the battlefield --
- Through tough, realistic training which builds confidence.
- By looking out for each other.
11-2. Leader's Role in Training Battle Fatigue Prevention
a. History shows what kinds of situations and stressors tend to produce battle fatigue
casualties. Some are conditions which can be modified or controlled by good leadership.
Other situations or events may be beyond the leader's control; however, knowing which
situations or events increase stress and battle fatigue enables the leader to compensate by
reducing other stressors and taking corrective actions. The leader must also plan for the
care of battle fatigue casualties and still accomplish the mission.
b. Mental health/combat stress control personnel have the mission to give formal training
and consultation on how to reduce stressors. This training and consultation is provided to
both medical and line officers, NCOs, chaplains, and troops.
c. Appendix E elaborates on material which is part of the Advanced NCO Course and
Advanced Officer Course core curricula. The same material is also outlined in GTAs 21-
3-4, -5, and -6. These GTAs are designed to facilitate "hip pocket training" in the field.
They are camouflaged pocket cards which should be available through all Army Training
and Audiovisual Support Centers. The GTAs can serve as training aids in peacetime and
as reminders and checklists in war.
11-3. What the Members of the Unit Can Do to Control Stress
a. Unit leaders and members can control stress by assisting one another. They need to be
able to recognize stress in each other. One important way in which stress can be
alleviated is by talking things out ("ventilation"). This requires encouragement and
listening to the soldier under stress. Realistic reassurance is helpful. Arguing with the
soldier and being critical or disparaging usually is not helpful. Ways which unit leaders
and members can assist one another in controlling stress may include --
- All soldiers being assigned or developing "battle buddies" with whom they share
their feelings and ventilate about their experiences.
- Officers and NCOs in the same unit encouraging each other to talk things out
together, especially those issues or feelings they cannot share with their troops.
- Officers and NCOs in sister units providing ventilation for each other.
- Officers and senior NCOs in the chain of command, chain of support, and staff
positions encouraging junior leaders to talk freely about their feelings at suitable
times and places without fear of reprisal. Formal after-action debriefings of the
unit leaders after difficult actions are one example of suitable times. Another
example is during change of command transition workshops.
- The unit chaplain being someone that anyone can ventilate to about anything.
b. Should a unit member be in a crisis, a number of actions may be useful. These actions
are to --
- Observe and attempt to calm the soldier.
- Protect him from danger (restrain only if necessary).
- Ensure that someone takes charge of the situation, finds out what is going on, and
takes appropriate action. Specific actions which should be taken by a buddy or
junior leader are outlined in GTA 21-3-4 and -5.
11-4. What the Individual Can Do to Control Combat Stress
a. Individuals must drink enough fluids, eat enough food, and attempt to get rest/ sleep as
often as possible.
b. Everyone should learn at least two relaxation techniques (and preferably more) that can
be used at times when physical exercise is not feasible.
- One technique should provide quick reduction of excessive alertness without
taking the mind, eyes, or hands off the task.
- A second technique should provide deep relaxation for refreshing sleep even
under high-stress situations.
c. Care must be taken to use relaxation techniques only at tactically appropriate times.
Mental health personnel can assist in teaching these methods. Useful techniques which
can be used alone or in combination include --
- Visual imaging self-relaxation. Imagine yourself in a relaxing situation. Pick your
own relaxing situation, then imagine it with every sense of your body -- colors,
shapes, textures, sounds, smells, temperature, and touch of it.
- Brief or progressive muscular relaxation. Tense your muscles for a few seconds
(approximately 5-10) and then slowly release this tension while feeling the warm
and heavy sensation that occurs when you relax. Either tense all your muscles at
once or start with the muscles in your toes and work slowly up the muscles in the
rest of your body.
- Stretching. Stretch your muscles and joints, move them around, and shake out the
When the soldier must stay alert and be responsive to the environment, special
relaxation techniques can be used that will not disrupt performance. In such
situations, deep relaxation techniques would be tactically inappropriate and unsafe.
- Positive self-talk. Say to yourself, "Easy does it," "Take your time," "I can do it,"
"OK, go for it!" or any other brief words of encouragement.
- Abdominal breathing. Breathe slowly and deeply, using the abdominal muscles
(not the chest muscles) to move the air in and out. Even one slow breath in which
you breathe in, hold for 2-3 seconds, and then exhale slowly (about 5 seconds)
can steady the nerves and refocus attention.
- Breathing meditation. Focus your attention on your breathing, especially each
time you breathe out. Say the same word or short phrase once each time you
exhale (such as the word "one" or "relax"), over and over, while passively letting
all other thoughts drift out of your mind.
d. Individuals should share feelings constructively ("ventilation").
e. Individuals can also reduce stress by planning ahead, preparing for the mission, and
ensuring readiness. The best way to alleviate stress is to take appropriate action. The
above techniques should be practiced frequently until they become automatic.
11-5. Prevention of Misconduct Stress Behaviors
The measures which reduce battle fatigue and prevent battle fatigue casualties should also help
reduce the incidence of misconduct stress behaviors. However, additional actions also need to be
practiced consistently by leadership at all echelons and by buddies at the small unit level.
a. Clearly state and teach the Standards of Conduct. United States forces will faithfully
adhere to the Law of Land Warfare and the UCMJ.
b. Reemphasize those standards repeatedly, especially every time they are violated by the
enemy or at the first early signs of slippage by our troops. Some of the early signs may
include talking about breaking the law, stretching the interpretation, or committing acts in
the "gray" areas which cannot be documented for legal action. Let troops express
(ventilate) their frustrations verbally among themselves, but not in action.
c. Emphasize national, Army, and unit pride in living by the standard even under
provocative conditions. "We are American soldiers of the (unit). I know how you feel,
but we do not do that stuff. Those who do have let us down and are no longer part of us."
d. Explain, as often as necessary, the ethical, legal, practical, and tactical reasons why we
obey the rules. For example, "Provoking us to commit atrocities is exactly what the
enemy is trying to do to achieve his objectives, not ours." Restate the mission and its
e. Clearly state and consistently enforce the rules and regulations against substance abuse,
fraternization, and misconduct. Develop a group sense of "family" that makes such
improper behavior morally and spiritually unacceptable as well as illegal and punishable.
f. Set the personal example of correct conduct.
g. Report all violations.
h. Prosecute all verifiable violations.
i. Consistently and fairly punish misconduct and violation of the UCMJ in peacetime to
set the standard that misbehavior will not be tolerated.
LEADERS' MANUAL FOR COMBAT STRESS CONTROL
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 - Overview of Combat Stress Control
Chapter 2 - Stress and Combat Performance
Chapter 3 - Postive Combat Stress Behaviors
Chapter 4 - Combat Misconduct Stress Behaviors
Chapter 5 - Battle Fatigue
Chapter 6 - Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Chapter 7 - Stress Issues in Army Operations
Chapter 8 - Stress and Stressors Associated with Offensive/Defensive Operations
Chapter 9 - Combat Stress Control in Operations other than War
Chapter 10 - War and the Integrated (Nuclear, Biological and Chemical) Battlefield
Chapter 11 - Prevention of Battle Fatigue Casualties and Misconduct Stress Behaviors
Appendix A - Leader Actions to Offset Battle Fatigue Risk Factors
Appendix B - Organization and Functions of Army Medical Department Combat Stress Control Units
Appendix C - United States Army Bands
Appendix D -The Unit Ministry Team's Role in Combat Stress Control and Battle Fatigue Ministry
Appendix E - Example Lesson Plan
Glossary - Abreviations and Acronyms
References - Sources Used