This blog post is part of the OSC Five Core Leader Functions series that will feature several guest bloggers.
by Rob Gerardi, Instructional Designer/Outreach Speaker, Naval Center for Combat and Operational Stress Control
The best command I ever served aboard was the USS HIGGINS (DDG-76). After the 9/11 attacks the OPTEMPO and requirements for all ships increased immensely and ours was no exception. We experienced our share of operational stress and observed its affects. However, our Sailors persevered and the HIGGINS earned multiple major awards.
The secret to our success was truly no secret–unit cohesion and quality leadership. The ship’s tight knit atmosphere encouraged us to know each other on professional and personal levels so we could be aware of and understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses. As a result, when there were signs of distress, or changes in behavior or functioning, timely interventions prevented small problems from becoming big ones.
Equally important to our success was our senior leadership’s monitoring of our command’s stress level. While we pushed ourselves to achieve mission, we also identified the stress zones in which individuals were operating moment to moment – and watched for the stressors that presented the greatest challenges. Keeping an eye on both our workloads and our shipmates allowed us to anticipate when the wear and tear would become too much.
However, it’s not enough to identify when someone is having trouble navigating stress, we have to act. Don’t let stigma be a barrier to admitting to your own or someone else’s stress problems. On HIGGINS, we continually looked out for each other and ensured that everyone who needed help got it. Still today, many of us commonly engage each other and reminisce on how great that command was.
So, know the stress continuum, identify when you or your shipmates are in the yellow “reacting” zone, before you or they become “injured.” Then have the courage to ask for help, or engage and help out a Shipmate. At the end of the day the most important thing you have is the pride of your mission and the respect and admiration for the Sailors and Marines serving by your side.
YouTube video – Navy OSC – Identify
About the Blogger:
Retired Master Chief Petty Officer Gerardi enlisted in the United States Navy on September 16, 1985. He has served as an Independent Duty Corpsman; Program Director, Independent Duty Corpsman School; Command Master Chief for the Naval School Health Sciences; and as the Commander Naval Surface Forces, Force Medical Master Chief. He retired January 2009, and works for the Naval Center for Combat and Operational Stress Control, promoting the psychological health of Sailors, Marines and their families.