ROLE OF THE MEDICAL NCO IN PREVENTION/TREATMENT OF SEVERE
COMBAT STRESS REACTIONS
a. Severe combat stress reactions are the result of emotional or mental
overwork. There are two common themes which interact in varying combinations in
most soldiers experiencing severe reactions to the stress of combat--loss of confidence
and internal conflict of motives.
b. Severe combat stress reactions are not cowardice or simple lack of
motivation. The coward feels no internal conflict and will malinger, shirk, or go AWOL
without shame, with only anxiety over getting caught. The soldier having severe combat
stress reactions, in contrast, wants to do his duty, but has reached the stage of stress
where he doubts that he can and may temporarily be unable to do so.
c. Physical fatigue, sleep loss, dehydration, and other low-grade physical
illnesses do not need to be involved in severe combat stress reactions, but these factors
are often present. When these factors are present, they decrease the soldier's ability to
perform mental or physical tasks and skills and, therefore, decrease the soldiers'
confidence in their ability to prevail under stress. It is possible to restore the soldiers'
physical state and still have them incapacitated by crippling loss of confidence.
d. Recognizing how these common themes of loss of confidence and internal
conflict of motives apply to each soldier suffering from severe reactions to the stress of
combat can help the medical NCO restore soldiers to effectiveness. Leaders' and
treaters' actions must raise the soldiers' confidence and help resolve internal conflict in
favor of a sense of duty.
e. Specific actions by the medical NCO include:
(1) Identifying soldiers who might be exhibiting severe reactions to the
stress of combat.
Providing appropriate treatment.
Referring the soldier for evacuation.
Training personnel (and self) in preventive methods.
f. What the individual can do to alleviate combat stress:
Rest and sleep as often as possible.
Learn to relax.