Military personnel can be deployed to serve a particular function or they can be part of a unit that has trained and prepared for a mission together. In addition to military personnel with combat capability, civilian personnel with expert competence often participate. Regardless of position or background, co-operation and unity are essential for a successful operation.
An important part of stress management lies in the preparation. Knowing that you have rehearsed different scenarios can be very helpful; you “know” what to do. A strong sense of self-efficacy is crucial.
Jon Reichelt, Chief Psychiatrist, Norwegian Armed Forces
Soldiers participating in international operations are a select group. They are chosen based on specific criteria that make them particularly suited to function effectively under extreme stress, such as in active combat. Co-operation skills, physical and mental capabilities, independent problem-solving skills, self-efficacy and stress tolerance are some of the required characteristics. Selecting the right personnel has proven to be crucial in a conflict situation. This has lead to an increased focus on the selection process.
Prior to an international deployment, 3-6 months of training is common. This includes combat training, stress management, team development and education on transcultural understanding and international law. The goal is to develop coping skills and confidence in managing challenging situations. Through rehearsal and interaction, self-efficacy and trust in fellow soldiers is developed. A group is never stronger than its weakest link; training is therefore directed at both the individual’s coping skills and at the co-operation skills of the entire team.
To prevent soldiers from becoming paralysed with fear or making the wrong decisions, some skills and reaction patterns need to be automated. Repeated rehearsal before and during deployment builds resilience to stress and uncertainty, allowing soldiers to manage unexpected situations. This way they are able to cope with situations that differ from the rehearsed scenarios.