Course designed to relieve stress, provide enjoyment

For stressed out Marines, it’s all about getting into the green.

Marines are taught ways to keep their stress levels in check to maintain high performance.

In Operational Stress Control and Readiness, or OSCAR, training, Marines learn that there are different levels of stress called the stress continuum. Green means good to go. Yellow means general everyday stress. Orange means a person is stressed all the time to the point of behavior changes and red means a person is completely broken and in need of help from a counselor or chaplain.

“We want to keep you guys in the green and the yellow and when you get to the yellow category we want to take you guys back to the green,” Justin Smith told a group of Marines from Marine Wing Support Squadron 274 as they prepared to take the Devil Dog Dare Challenge at Cherry Point.

Smith is the coordinator of the course that incorporates a range of adrenaline packed elements staged in the woods on the base.

“It’s all about getting into the green,” Smith told the Marines. “We’re trying to give you guys positive ways to deal with stress. I’m not saying coming out here is going to solve all of your problems. Life still goes on, but just the way our brains work in general it is going to help you guys release a little bit of that adrenaline.”

Established in 2013, the course has a drop zone tower with seven high-rope elements, a 65-foot freefall experience, a zip line canopy tour, a high ropes challenge course, a rappelling wall, plus a mountain bike course and a paintball course.

“It’s good at stress relieving because we do put them in a stressful position, but it’s in a controlled environment and they get the opportunity to go through it together and actually release that stress together,” said Smith.

It’s all situated in the forest at a waterfront location. Cables are strung from tree to tree and Marines climb or slide from platform to platform 30 or 40 feet above the ground.

Smith tells the group that it is not unheard of for a Marine to be challenged by the heights with strong emotional reactions, especially those afraid of heights.

“We’ve have had people have every kind of emotional reaction up there. We’ve had people cry, and I’m not just talking about PFCs. We’ve had sergeants bawl up there before. We’ve had people throw up, all these kinds of reactions up there,” Smith said.

Smith encourages the Marines to be supportive of one another.

“Be encouraging. Don’t be discouraging,” Smith told them. “Fear of heights is not something that you can just run away from. If you are out there in the middle of that challenge course and those emotions start hitting you, you really can’t do anything unless hope that people will start rallying around you and get you through it.”

A little bit of friendly ribbing is encouraged, though.

“We get it. You guys are Marines,” Smith said. “That is actually a way that you can create cohesion, to give each other a hard time about stuff. We’re not saying you can’t come out here and have a good time and dog each other a little bit. You’re all Marines. You’re all a team. So you’ve got to come together. That’s definitely what we want out of this experience.”

The Marines get to enjoy their day doing something exotic and relieve stress at the same time.

“The Marine Corps in general is a team mentality,” said Smith. “They have a mission that they have to complete, and if somebody is lagging behind because they are stressed out, a lot of times it hurts them as far as trying to get the mission done, so doing something like this does help them relieve some stress and so then they will be able to work better as a team and as a cohesive unit.”

Lance Cpl. Cody Lemons went through the zip line canopy tour sliding from tree to tree and climbing across a horizontal rope ladder.

“I thought it was a good time,” he said. “It gives you a chance to get out of the office, get out of your regular routines and relax and do something that you usually wouldn’t do.

“I think it’s a good thing. I think if anybody gets a chance they should come out here and experience it for themselves.”