LEADERS' MANUAL FOR COMBAT STRESS CONTROL
STRESS AND STRESSORS ASSOCIATED WITH
The effects of stress and stressors associated with offensive and defensive operations are
immense. Leaders must understand how high levels of stress can affect the performance of their
personnel in offensive and defensive operations.
8-2. Offensive Operations
a. Fundamentals. (See FM 100-5 for details.)
(1) The offensive is the decisive form of war -- the commander's ultimate means
of imposing his will upon the enemy. Even in the defense, seizing the initiative
requires offensive operations. Combat service support units, by the nature of their
missions, will usually be in tactical defense even while the units they support are
on the attack. However, the likelihood of rear battle requires that all leaders fully
understand the principles, tactics, and psychological advantages of going on the
(2) Commanders, while shielding their own troops from stress, should attempt to
promote terror and disintegration in the opposing force. Aggressive patrolling,
raids, and sudden, violent actions (which catch the enemy by surprise and do not
permit him to recover) should be common tools to magnify the enemy's battlefield
stress. Stress-creating actions can hasten the destruction of his combat capability.
Some examples of stress-creating actions are attacks on his command structure;
the use of artillery, air-delivered weapons, smoke; deception; psychological
warfare; and the use of special operations forces. Such stress-creating actions can
hasten the destruction of the enemy's capability for combat.
b. Purposes. While offensive operations may have as their objective the destruction or
neutralization of an enemy force, inflicting physical damage is frequently incidental to
offensive success. Large gains are achieved by destroying the coherence of the defense,
fragmenting and isolating enemy units in the zone of the attack, and driving deep to
secure operationally decisive objectives. These have the result of "stressing out" the
c. Characteristics. The most successful offensive operations are characterized by
surprise, concentration, speed, flexibility, and audacity.
d. Phases. The four general phases of offensive operations are preparation, attack,
exploitation, and pursuit.
e. Forms of Maneuver. Just as similar phases are common to all offensive operations,
similar forms of maneuver are common to all attacks. These forms of maneuver include
envelopment, turning movement, infiltration, penetration, and frontal attack.
f. Conducting Offensive Operations. Offensive operations are characterized by aggressive
initiative on the part of subordinate commanders, by rapid shifts in the main effort to take
advantage of opportunities, by momentum, and by the deepest, most rapid destruction of
enemy defenses possible.
g. Offensive Framework. A simple, complete concept of operation is the basis of all
tactical offensive actions.
8-3. Battle Fatigue and Battle Fatigue Casualties in the Offense
a. The preparation for an attack is a time of high stress and anxiety, both for novice
soldiers and for veterans. Physical stress complaints (musculoskeletal, cardiorespiratory,
gastrointestinal) are common at sick call. If morale is low and troops are pessimistic
about the attack, battle fatigue casualties and misconduct stress behaviors may be high.
b. There may be much stress and physical fatigue in the attack, exploitation, and pursuit
phases; but relatively few battle fatigue casualties occur as long as soldiers are able to
continue moving and advancing. Battle fatigue casualties increase if the advance bogs
down, is pinned down, or loses momentum, especially when indirect fire is received.
Being bombed or shelled in the starting line is notoriously disruptive, as is being hit by
friendly fire (a risk inherent in a fluid fast-moving battle). Diversionary attacks or
security operations may lack the strong psychological motivation of the main attack and
require additional positive explanation by leaders to minimize adverse combat stress
c. Units in reserve have the difficult task of maintaining fighting spirit and readiness.
While not yet fighting, they are at risk but must try to stay rested. The junior troops
usually get some sleep if they are not too apprehensive. The leaders often do not get
enough sleep because of the never-ending planning and briefing cycle. It is most
important that leaders do plan for and get enough sleep themselves and maintain good
hydration and nutrition.
d. Combat support and CSS troops (especially supply, transport, maintenance, and
medical) may be tasked for prolonged SUSOPS, with increased risk from enemy forces
which were bypassed. They tend to have more battle fatigue casualties per WIA than the
combat arms when they do take casualties. Seeing (and especially having to touch) the
maimed bodies left behind by the attack may produce battle fatigue (and/or future PTSD)
in inadequately prepared troops even if they are not themselves under fire.
e. Every effort should be made to provide rest in the combat and field trains for exhausted
soldiers. Restoration treatment for battle fatigue casualties should be at medical treatment
facilities as close behind the attack as possible. This should generally be possible in the
division support area and brigade support area.
f. Misconduct stress behaviors which constitute criminal acts such as looting, killing
EPW, rape, and other atrocities against noncombatants and "liberation" of alcohol and
drugs are always a risk when victorious troops advance into enemy territory. Leaders
must lead by example and retain control, discipline, and a sense of pride to preclude such
8-4. Defensive Operations
a. Fundamentals. (See FM 100-5 for details.) Defensive operations retain ground, gain
time, deny the enemy access to an area, damage or defeat attacking forces, and save one's
b. Purposes. The immediate purpose of any defense is to defeat the attack.
c. Characteristics. In any defensive plan, preparation, disruption, concentration, and
flexibility are fundamental.
d. Defensive Patterns. While defensive operations may take many forms, traditional
usage divides defensive arrangements into two broad categories: mobile and area
e. Defensive Framework. A simple, complete concept of operations is the basis of all
defenses. Defenses are organized into five complementary elements:
- Security force operations.
- Defensive operations.
- Reserve operations.
- Deep operations.
- Rear operations.
Each of these five defensive elements entails different stress for the defending
troops and may evoke different combat stress behaviors
f. Retrograde Operations. A retrograde operation is a movement to the rear or away from
the enemy. Retrograde operations are executed to gain time, preserve forces, avoid
combat under undesirable conditions, or draw the enemy into an unfavorable position.
8-5. Stress, Battle Fatigue, and Battle Fatigue Casualties in the Defense
a. Stressful Uncertainties. Defensive operations involve more stressful uncertainty about
enemy intentions and capabilities than being on the offensive. The defensive posture
itself implies that the enemy has the greater strength. Rumors and appraisals of the
situation are more likely to be pessimistic and may overmagnify the true threat.
b. Mobile Defenders. Mobile defense incurs more physical fatigue, but soldiers are less
likely to become battle fatigue casualties. Even in such obviously high-risk situations,
such as a covering force in contact with an overwhelmingly strong attacking enemy, a
positive unit identity and cohesion can provide remarkable protection against fear.
Problems with battle fatigue and misconduct stress behaviors are more likely to occur
later in the survivors who make it back to a safe location -- these may cause difficulties
for reconstitution of the units.
c. Static Defenders. The stressors in static defense vary with the degree of comfort and
security provided by the fortifications. If very strong, the fortifications may increase
confidence to the point of complacency and degraded vigilance; if less strong and
subjected to intense or prolonged bombardment, static defense incurs high battle fatigue
casualty rates. Discomfort, especially cold, wet conditions with inability to move around,
increases both cold injury and battle fatigue casualties.
d. Hidden Stress Casualties (in Retrograde Operations). There are relatively few
diagnosed battle fatigue casualties in retrograde operations. There may be many
undiagnosed battle fatigue soldiers. Some of these soldiers may be ineffective; others
may be a loss to their unit as a result of becoming a PW, MIA, WIA, or KIA. Misconduct
stress behaviors, such as alcohol abuse, desertion, or criminal acts (looting, rape,
atrocities, and the murder of leaders), may occur if the retrograde operation becomes
disorganized. The danger of retreat is that it may degenerate into mass panic or rout with
every man (or small team) trying to save himself at the expense of the others. Such panic,
spread by fleeing soldiers and fanned by rumor, is contagious. Unless checked quickly, it
leads to the catastrophic failure of entire armies and the nation, as befell France under the
German blitzkrieg of 1940.
Go to Chapter 9 - Combat Stress Control in Operations other than War
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