Combat and Operational Stress Control (COSC) and the Deployment Cycle

All deployments, even those that do not involve combat, are significant events in service members’ lives and can affect not only those who deploy, but also their families. Deployment experiences, and the associated stressors involved, can affect individuals in a variety of ways ranging from experiences of growth to long-term negative effects on physical and/or mental health.

Common Stressors during the Deployment Cycle

Throughout the deployment cycle (pre-deployment to reintegration), there are a range of stressors that can contribute to combat and operational stress. Common stressors across the deployment cycle include the following:[ Reference 1 ]

Pre-deployment[ Reference 2 ]

Deployment[ Reference 3 ]

Post-deployment[ Reference 4 ]

Getting affairs in order

Loss of family member or loved one

Reintegrating into family

Denial and anticipation of loss

Killing someone

Renegotiating routines

Relationship disagreements

Witnessing the death of others

Loss of independence

Preparing family for potential injury

Challenge of living conditions

Each service has its own programs for managing combat and operational stressors, with specific training and educational requirements, personnel roles, and methods of implementation. Refer to COSC and the Military Services for more detailed information.

Deployment Cycle Resources

The resources below provide information to help service members and their families, as well as their health care providers, navigate deployment cycle stressors.

  • Before Deployment: Information and resources compiled by the Real Warriors Campaign to help service members prepare for deployment
  • Preparing for Deployment - The Essentials: Information and tips from Military OneSource to prepare for deployment, such as updating essential legal documents, organizing finances, creating a family care plan and designing a contingency plan
  • Sesame Street for Military Families - Resources for providers to learn about the steps that military families go through during challenging transitions as well as handouts with simple strategies for them to share with their patients
  • Returning from the War Zone: A guide for military personnel developed by the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder that covers common reactions to expect following combat, experiences one is likely to encounter on the home front, positive coping with transition, and where to go for assistance
  • Military Deployment Guide: Information on the deployment cycle. Prepares service members and their families for deployment
  • Deployment Support Handbook: Resources and information to help sailors and Marines prepare for deployment, handle the challenges that arise during deployment, and successfully adjust during the return-and-reintegration phase
  • Deployment Cycle Readiness Handbook: Tips and resources to help soldiers and families “gear up” for the various stages within the deployment cycle
  • Deployment Readiness: Pre-deployment, sustainment, and reintegration supports for airmen to foster competencies, improve coping skills, help personnel and their families deal with the demands of the expeditionary military mission and family responsibilities
  • Deployment Services: Information on American Red Cross resources, workshops, and support services to assist military families with the deployment cycle
  • Adjusting to Changes: The Phases of Deployment: Information and resources from the Real Warriors Campaign to support military families during the deployment cycle
  • Helping Children Cope during Deployment: Information from the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress to help children cope during a parent’s deployment