Navy Operational Stress Control


Definition of Operational Stress Control (OSC):

  • Leader actions and responsibilities to promote resilience and psychological health in military units and individuals, including family members, exposed to the stress of routine or wartime military operations in noncombat environments. (Navy Leader's Guide for Managing Sailors in Distress, 2012).

Definition of Operational Stress Reactions:

  • Changes in physical or mental functioning or behavior resulting from the experience or consequences of military operations other than combat, during peacetime or war, and on land, at sea, or in the air (Navy Leader's Guide for Managing Sailors in Distress, 2012).

Purpose of OSC program:

  • Rather than a focus on preventing stress unique to combat, the Navy OSC program’s ultimate goal is to encourage all sailors to engage in healthy behaviors (protective factors) and discourage unhealthy behaviors as a way to prevent both operational stress as well as combat stress-related reactions and psychological health difficulties from developing. “The OSC Program is an element of force health protection with three main goals: identification, prevention and treatment of stress problems per the combat and OSC doctrine. The broad goal of OSC is to help Navy leaders build resilience within units and individual sailors, through an integrated, evidence-based program aimed at increasing the awareness and understanding of stress and providing strategies to mitigate detrimental effects.” (OPNAVINST 6520.1A, 2016, p.1). The Navy’s vision is to develop an environment in which all sailors are trained and motivated to navigate stress and to assist their shipmates (OPNAVINST 6520.1A, 2016, p.2).


  • Operational Stress Control Program. OPNAVINST 6520.1A (2016).

  • US Navy and US Marine Corp Combat and Operational Stress Control. MCRP6-11P (2010) [CS1] 


  • Leaders must be able to assess individual and unit stress, take appropriate actions to mitigate stress issues before they become problematic and eliminate negative attitudes associated with help-seeking behaviors. Building resilience and mitigating stress is a leadership responsibility that directly impacts the Navy’s war-fighting readiness and effectiveness (pg. 7. OPNAVINST 6520.1A, 2016). OSC principles and skill building lessons are incorporated into all levels of naval education and training, chaplaincy policy and training, and fleet and family support centers. The Navy also maintains the only COSC program that is specifically targeted toward caregivers.


  • The OSC program is implemented using a top-down approach, in which leaders [NOVOSC-LEAD for E-7 and above and DPL-OSC for E-4 to E-6 personnel] are trained and responsible for assessing individual and unit stress, taking appropriate actions to mitigate stress issues before they become problematic and ensuring that negative attitudes associated with help-seeking behaviors are eliminated (p.7). Leaders however, can utilize chaplains, medical personnel, counselors and community resources to help build a culture that is supportive of help-seeking behaviors.

Relevant Links:

Naval Center for Combat and Operational Stress Control

  • The Naval Center for Combat & Operational Stress Control (NCCOSC) optimizes force psychological readiness through development, aggregation and dissemination of best practices and innovations in primary, secondary and tertiary prevention of psychological injury and disease.

21st Century Sailor Operational Stress Control

  • The OSC Program, part of the 21st Century Sailor Office's (OPNAV N17) Suicide Prevention Branch (OPNAV N171), promotes an understanding of stress and awareness of support resources and provides practical stress navigation tools to help build resilience of sailors, families and commands.

Navy Nav Stress Twitter and Blog

  • Twitter and blog feed of the Navy Suicide Prevention Branch’s official Operational Stress Control.

Navy COSC Facebook

  • Facebook page of the Navy’s COSC program.

Navy Marine Corps Public Health

  • NMCPHC is committed to supporting Fleet and Marine Corps readiness and enhancing public health outcomes through our products and services.

Navy Leader’s Guide for Managing Sailors in Distress

  • The purpose of the Navy Leader's Guide for Managing Sailors in Distress is to help leaders recognize distress related behaviors, provide support to sailors within the unit and collaborate with Navy helping agencies to meet the needs of distressed individuals.