MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- For Marines, the rigorous training cycle of a work-up, being deployed and returning home, builds bonds that can last a life time.
Unfortunately, there are times when our brothers and sisters struggle with post-war efforts and combat stress can overcome them. One service member lost to suicide is too many, and as the years have passed, many initiatives and programs have been launched to caveat this epidemic.
Operation Adrenaline Rush combines combat operation stress control principles with outdoor recreational activities to aid in mitigating boredom, boost morale and deter high-risk behavior of recently deployed Marines.
Under the program, Marine units coordinate with their family readiness officers and their installation’s Outdoor Recreational Facilities to set up outdoor activities that could include hiking, rock climbing, boating, skiing, snowboarding, paintballing, mountain biking and more.
All Marine units that have returned from deployment are eligible to participate in this program. They have up to 120 days after they return to schedule an event for their unit. The participation and activities are free for all Marines involved.
“The Combat Center initially wasn’t funded for this program,” said John Murdock, recreation manager, Combat Center Outdoor Adventures. “Marine Corps Air Station Yuma set aside extra funds for Combat Center Marines and that is how we were able to get our Marines out there. We have also worked with our budget and are preparing and planning more future trips for our Marines to take advantage of.”
The program is broken down into two parts: combat and operational stress control principals and outdoor activity.
During the COSC principles portion, senior Marines will brief the juniors on influences and resiliency, demonstration of confidence, trust, and competence among fellow Marines. This is designed to assist the Marines in acquiring the coping skills needed to manage combat experiences and stresses. The second part of the program is conducting the activity.
“I heard about this program from our family readiness officer and base sergeant major, and I knew I wanted to get my unit involved,” said 1st Sgt. Rafael Vargas, Company B first sergeant, 3rd Combat Engineer Battalion. “They were able to accommodate our unit on the trip, so we split it up into five different days, and sent our guys by company.”
For the Combat Center, 3rd CEB has been the first and only unit thus far to participate. For their activity, the Marines were bussed out to the Pirate Cove Resort in Needles, Calif., where they participated in water recreation events and paintballing.
“We heard about this when we came back from deployment in October, 2013,” said Cpl. Thomas Castellano, combat engineer, 3rd CEB. “In February of 2014, we were officially involved in the event. At first, it seemed like a normal mandatory fun day. As soon as we got out there, I realized it was much different.”
For the 3rd CEB Marines, each day was spilt in half; half the day in the water, and the other half paintballing.
“Not one person had anything bad to say about the event,” Castellano said. “Having the activities to do with the group of people you deployed with reminds you they are still there. It reminded me of the good things about deployment, getting really close to your group of Marines.”
For each portion of the activity, the Marines were given adequate instruction on proper use of equipment.
“There is always a safety portion of whichever activity the Marines are going to be involved in,” Murdock said. “While the ultimate goal of the program is to promote stress relief, safety is always paramount, and we don’t take any chances when it comes to the safety of our Marines.”
While the Combat Center hasn’t been officially funded by the program, the outdoor Adventures facility has set aside money from their budget to accommodate Combat Center Marines.
“Here at Outdoor Adventures, we do the best we can to accommodate what the Marines want to do,” Murdock said. “If we can support the program with the gear that we have readily accessible, then we are more than happy to do it.”
With the success of 3rd CEB’s trip, more Combat Center units are looking into recreational opportunities upon returning from deployment.
“I believe the Marines are getting everything the program intends to give and more,” Vargas said. “It felt like it was the true end to our deployment. Once we got back from Afghanistan, everyone went on block leave and back to their families. This was an opportunity for all the Marines to connect again after the deployment.”
With the ultimate goal of relieving post-deployment stress and deterring high-risk activities, the program also embodies one of the oldest Marine concepts of ‘taking care of our own.’
“It’s one Marine looking out for another,” Murdock said. “Nobody can be the same coming back from the stresses of combat. With this program, we aim to give the Marines tools to help cope with the stress.”
If you are interested in getting your unit involved in OAR, contact your unit’s family readiness officer to find out more information.