Anything that empowers individuals to say to themselves, “Yes, I can handle this,” will make them not only more effective in the performance of their jobs but also more resilient to the potentially damaging effects of stressors. Individual Marines and leaders must work to strengthen themselves equally throughout the four crucial domains— body, mind, spirit, and social. 

Strengthening the Body

Physical wellness and fitness are critical for an optimal response to stress. Conversely, the lack of physical wellness or fitness may significantly detract from an individual’s ability and confidence. Not only does a strong body help us ace our physical fitness tests, strengthening our physical body strengthens our mind by keeping the brain’s infrastructure for positive coping at optimal performance.

Strengthening the Mind

The mental ability to generalize knowledge and skills and adapt them to new situations requires intelligence, creativity, and self-confidence. A Marine or sailor who possesses the necessary physical and mental skills to meet a challenge may be capable; however, to be truly strong, that Marine or Sailor must know they have those skills. Self-knowledge and self-confidence are keys to mental strength. Psychological wellness is crucial to using mental strength effectively and consistently.

One of the main contributors to mental strength is willpower and fortitude— two aspects of courage. Fortitude is the ability to encounter danger or bear pain or adversity without faltering; whereas, willpower is the motivation to convert that mental strength into courageous behavior. Willpower and fortitude are among the most important functions of leaders in military organizations.

Strengthening the Spirit

Willpower and fortitude operate in the realm of the spirit as well as the mind. No one possesses limitless resources of courage and perseverance, so everyone needs to augment their internal storehouse of fortitude by continually drawing upon sources beyond themselves that are revered and trusted, such as organizations, leaders, and the Divine. Spiritual resilience is also based on firm trust in moral values and ethics. Deepening that trust and allowing nothing to damage it are crucial strengthening actions for leaders.

Strengthening the Social Factors

Very much related to the spiritual aspects of resilience are the social factors in the unit or other social support systems, such as family or community, which contribute to effective and resilient coping. Being surrounded by friends and family who are known and trusted, and with whom one has already mastered challenges and endured hardships, is a potent contributor to resilience. People need people – even “tough” Marines.

All four of these domains are briefly reviewed in annual Unit Marine Awareness and Prevention Integrated Training (UMAPIT) and covered more in-depth in unit Operational Stress Control and Readiness (OSCAR) team training. You can also learn more about the four domains and how to strengthen them both in yourself and your unit by taking a deeper dive into the Combat and Operational Stress Control Doctrine, MCTP 3-30. Your local Regional Training Coordinator can provide more information about the four domains, either of these trainings, or the COSC Doctrine. For more information, reach out to your local RTC, Embedded Preventive Behavioral Health Capability (EPBHC) staff, COSC Representative, an OSCAR Team Member, or HQMC COSC at HQMC_COSCC@usmc.mil.