The literal and the Marine meaning of a leader. Marines know there’s more to this definition that is sometimes hard to capture in words or a simple definition.

“I love the Corps for those intangible possessions that cannot be issued: pride, honor, integrity, and being able to carry on the traditions for generations of warriors past.” (Cpl. Jeff Sornig, USMC; in Navy Times, November 1994)


noun: leader; plural noun: leaders

the person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country.

Although seemingly a simple definition, Marines know there’s more to this definition that is sometimes hard to capture in words or a simple definition. The spirit of Marine Corps leadership is honor, courage, and commitment.  It is taking the hard right over the easy wrong. It is ensuring the wellbeing of the Marines to our left and right, and being reminded not just in conflict, but also in peace, that it is our duty to lead with military proficiency, and that includes psychological health.

Ensuring the wellbeing of Marines and Sailors includes not only strengthening them, but  keeping them strong, monitoring their condition, applying stress first aid when needed, and returning them to full fitness as soon as possible. Caring for their psychological health is crucial and the Combat and Operational Stress Control Doctrine (MCTP 3-30E) gives us a blueprint that is both grounded in lessons learned from leaders before us, and in science and evidence that supports those lessons learned. Preserving the psychological health of Service members and their families is as much a warfighting and readiness issue as it is a sacred duty and it is of paramount concern to mission readiness.

Leaders in both the Navy and the Marine Corps should use the COSC Doctrine as a tool for teaching and for professional discussion about combat and operational stress control. While we hone technical and physical skills to make us successful in combat and other operations, we cannot neglect the mind and spirit.

One of the foundational tools of the COSC Doctrine are the Five Core Leader Functions:

  • Strengthen
  • Mitigate
  • Identify
  • Treat
  • Reintegrate


Although all leader functions are important, Strengthen is truly a protective factor to guard against stress. Centuries of experience in military organizations and decades of scientific research have demonstrated that commanders of military units can do much to enhance the resilience of unit members and their families. Activities available to commanders to strengthen their troops fall into three main categories—training, social cohesion, and leadership.

Tough, realistic training develops physical and mental strength and endurance, enhances warfighters’ confidence in their abilities as individuals and as members of units to cope with the challenges they will face, and inoculates them to the stressors they will encounter.

Social cohesion, defined broadly as mutual trust and support in a social group, is developed through shared experiences of accomplishment and overcoming adversity over time in a group with a stable membership.  Yes, train hard… but don’t forget to make time for fun!  Go bowling, host a unit picnic, give Marines and families an opportunity to get to have fun together, know one another, and build trust.

Another crucial way in which leaders enhance the resilience of their unit members is by providing themselves as a resource of courage and fortitude on which unit members can draw during challenging times. In other words, take care of yourself.  If you need help, seek help.  When appropriate, share your lessons learned and talk about your life experiences in an effort to reduce stigma and encourage help seeking behaviors among those you lead.

Of all the actions leaders can take to manage the stress of their Marines and Sailors, strengthening them before exposure to stress has the greatest potential to actually prevent stress injuries and illnesses. An ounce of strengthening prevention truly is worth more than a pound of treatment and reintegration cure.

For more information about COSC, reach out to your local Regional Training Coordinator (RTC), Unit COSC Representative, or a Marine in your unit who is a trained OSCAR Team Member.