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Wednesday September 18, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Wednesday September 18, 2013 MYT 7:33:51 AM
MALACCA: Mej Syakirin Yusoff has been an Army commando for 16 years, trained to neutralise any threats to the nation.
This year, the 37-year-old counter-terrorism specialist was called to duty during the Lahad Datu intrusion.
However, instead of using his expertise directly against the enemy, he helped his fellow soldiers overcome the stress of fighting on the frontline.
“Combat stress not only affects the morale of soldiers but also their combat prowess.
“If one soldier needs to be evacuated, one of his buddies needs to go with him and our strength will be reduced by at least two men instead of one,” he said.
Mej Syakirin, who is stationed at the Special Warfare Training Centre in Sungai Udang, recalled his role as one of six armed forces personnel who were sent to manage combat stress in Lahad Datu.
The six consisted of psychologists from the Army, Air Force and Navy as well as an occupational therapist and a doctor from the Army.
Mej Syakirin said his role was at first met with suspicion by soldiers and their commanding officers.
“They viewed my Gerak Khas patch with suspicion. They thought I was there to snoop around and find fault for their higher-ups.
“But I did not blame them as they were unfamiliar with my task,” he said.
He said that combat stress management had not been actively practised although it had been included in the armed forces doctrine since 2002.
In the Lahad Datu conflict, Mej Syakirin said security forces personnel were subjected to stress not only from combat but also their families.
Wives would constantly call their husbands while the soldiers would worry about their family’s finances and children’s well-being.
“With so much on their mind, they are unable to concentrate on their job. Even their commanding officers are not spared the stress,” he said.
Mej Syakirin said some of the troops and police officers were still undergoing treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder that could appear four to six months later.
He witnessed three types of reactions.
“I observed three policemen who were taken hostage. One cried non-stop after seeing his colleague killed. Another remained completely silent while another resisted counselling by insisting he was fine,” he said, adding that those most affected by combat stress were regular infantrymen or those who had just joined the service.
“Those who did not face such problems were trained soldiers like those in the special forces or those who had previous experience.
“For about 20% of the troops on duty in Ops Daulat, it was their first combat experience,” said Mej Syakirin.
Tags / Keywords:
Health, army, PTSD, stress
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