Relieving Stress During Combat

Spc. Wes Shockley, Army Mental Health Specialist, talks to soldiers about the symptoms of combat-related stress.
It's a story as old as war itself. Send U.S. troops into sustained combat, and for some soldiers, the fighting and dying -- and the struggle to survive, will cause unbearable stress.

It's the kind of stress that U.S. troops in Iraq are living with on a daily basis.

But now, as CBS News Correspondent Kimberly Dozier reports, the military is trying a new approach to helping them cope.

The Wolfhounds at Forward Operating Base McHenry in Northeast Iraq, are taking out a year's worth of aggression, built up fighting insurgents, on each other by playing football. It's a very traditional way to relieve stress far from home on Thanksgiving.

Others are heading for Web cafes and telephones, trying to reach loved ones back home at Scofield Barracks in Hawaii.
Combat stress counselors, in a break with tradition, are now on the front lines, living with and sometimes fighting alongside their patients. "There are some symptoms of acute stress, and that's like exaggerated startled response, depression," says Spc. Wes Shockley.

Because they're here, these counselors say that troops are more eager to seek them out when the bombs, mortars and rocket fire become too much to take.

"Having a skilled counselor as part of the team is a great way to get at these problems before they blow up and become a major issue," says Capt. Rick Schobitz.

"So we can get to the soldiers where they are, when they need it, immediately," adds Capt. Todd Yosick. "So we can help them stay in the fight."

Soldiers who flee the battlefield often never defeat their fears -- which threaten their jobs, and sometimes destroy their home life.

These troops have also certainly seen their share of trouble, and called on to fight as far south as Samarra.

By putting help right at the front lines, this unit has achieved a rare record. There have been no suicides, and no one has been sent home because of stress or breakdowns. These counselors, now brothers in arms, are truly part of the family.

"Being away from home is no fun," says Sgt. Heath Woolsey. "That's why we have each other."

And that helps these troops get through a holiday like Thanksgiving, away from their families back home.