The Commandant of the Marine Corps Training and Education 2030 states,
“Mental Health Screening. Special Operations Forces have long utilized mental health tests and other behavioral screening tools to identify those with high mental resilience, as well as those who may be more susceptible to stress or adverse behaviors. To what extent would similar programs tailored to the
needs of the Marine Corps facilitate readiness and overall human performance? This must continue tobe a topic of further study and discussion.”
Th is article is commentary and will focus on the CMC’s quote concerning “high mental resilience.” I am a retired infantry officer who now works for the Security Cooperation Training Detachment as a civilian, but I am also the founder and president of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit called Liberty Organization for Veterans
and Emergency Responders (https://www.LibertyOVE.org) which I started in January of 2021. We provide all sorts of services to our active military, veterans, first responders, and their families. Our focus since September of 2021 has been providing Trauma Recovery Intervention Protocol, or TRIP.
TRIP is a mental health protocol that can be administered over a video call, or in person, and takes less than 1-hour. It also regularly takes inventory of mental health status through the intake assessment, and follow-on assessments. A TRIP practitioner touches a TRIP client a minimum of 6 times within a given year to assess their mental health. TRIP was developed by Dr. Janell Royster and takes its derivative origins from multiple mental health protocols such as Recovery of Traumatic Memories (RTM), Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), and others.
In short, it has taken the best of ideas on how to resolve traumatic experiences commonly known as Post Traumatic Stress (PTS), which is trauma associated with memory for less than 30 days and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which is traumatic memories that are chronic beyond 30 days. LibertyOVE has delivered TRIP to more than 250 clients with a success rate of over 97% at resolving PTS and PTSD in the lives of people. Dr. Royster, in her private practice, has used TRIP over 3000 times with much the same effect.
LibertyOVE also trains police, fire, EMS, and veterans’ groups in how to implement TRIP; we train new practitioners of TRIP. Typically, we train Critical Incident Teams (CIT), or Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) team members. These teams conduct peer-to-peer support within their units to help maintain resiliency, keep members on the job, and to maintain the mental health well-being. These first responder agencies utilize TRIP either in the field, or after a shift.
This work leads to higher performance and improved readiness for first responder agencies. There is a direct correlation to CIT/CISM actions and the resiliency of a workforce. As such, the DoD has done little to bring this type of structure or mindset to the unit level. To date we have relied on the mental health arm of our clinics and hospitals to be the sole purveyor of resiliency type therapies. Why? Why have we not explored a cost-effective method to train our Marines in how to improve resiliency?
TRIP training is a 2 to 3-day program, 8-hours a day, 20 personnel trained at a time. The Marine Corps should consider exploring shifting the burden of mental health and resiliency down to the unit level, and to provide the training and support necessary for units to triage and handle mental health issues to improve readiness. One option would be to train Corpsmen in how to implement TRIP when they either identify a Marine or Sailor with PTS/PTSD, or for those who experience trauma on the battlefield. Additionally, the Navy could provide TRIP training to its Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) or other mental health professionals to increase the availability.
I am a recipient of TRIP. Before receiving TRIP I attempted multiple therapies both on active duty and through the Veterans Administration (VA). I have gone through dozens of assessments, pain management psychological assessments, therapies such as talk therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Depression (CBT-D), and multiple others. I went through TRIP in September of 2021 and it changed my life! I suffered from PTSD, anxiety,
depression, etc. Many of those things I suffered from were just how PTSD manifested in my life. I am not afraid to admit that PTSD has caused me many problems and clouded my ability to focus, make decisions, judgments, control my emotions, my relationships, work, and much more. I felt the impacts of having traumatic memories removed from emotions through TRIP almost immediately. I immediately was able to sleep better, think more clearly, control my emotions, and just be a more productive and emotionally regulated person.
As one who led the initial writing of the Combat Hunter (CH) doctrine, building of the original CH Leaders Course, and validated the science of the behavioral profiling portion of CH with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Behavioral Science Unit (FBI, BSU), I learned a lot about Emotional Intelligence (EI). I observed how the learning on the brain, how it works, how it can be fooled, and how CH helped increase the EI of Marines who really took the training to heart.
My experiences with TRIP in the nonprofit world, particularly training first responder agencies, has helped me link EI and creating one who is more self-aware pre-traumatic incident, to better performance in the moment. The training does this by exposing police agencies to CH principles and course ware on the brain and body, and how it reacts to stress, how to train to perform under stress while controlling emotions and the ability to make clear decisions, and how to create automaticity correctly. It has also helped me to see that even the most prepared military member or first responder will still experience trauma that can cause PTS, and if not addressed, PTSD.
Resiliency begins left of bang, as does improving the EI of a Marine and we must adjust our current approach to training and education to account for this, as training the mind (e.g. EI), is part of creating resiliency, whereas TRIP would help deal with experienced traumas and keep the workforce on the job. Resiliency is sustained by the continued evaluation of the overall mental health of individuals and units by measuring their individual performance. Providing easily implementable, cost-effective resiliency options such as TRIP, and making them widely and immediately available both in garrison and on the battlefield will improve workforce output. It will keep Marines in the fight, in any clime or place.
Major Michael G. Murray II is a retired infantry officer, 100% disabled veteran, and is currently the
Deputy of the Security Cooperation Training Detachment at Fort Story, Virginia Beach, Virginia. He is
also the Founder and President of Liberty Organization for Veterans and Emergency Responders