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Marines take cover from paintball fire here July 18 during a counterinsurgency exercise with 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit. The Marines serve with Company L, Battalion Landing Team 3/1. The battalion is training to deploy as the unit's ground combat element this fall.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Ryan Carpenter

Researchers study Marines' mind fitness

18 Jul 2011 | Lance Cpl. Ryan Carpenter

Riflemen learning to channel combat stress and use it to their advantage continued mindfulness-based mind fitness training here July 18 during an 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit counterinsurgency exercise.

Part of eight weeks of research designed to gauge mental fitness and the associated physical effects, two platoons ran combat scenarios at Pendleton’s indoor and outdoor Infantry Immersion Trainer while applying techniques to relax and pay attention to their surroundings.

“The biggest thing I took out of mind fitness is being able to look at the bigger picture and being able to catch little details I might have missed in the past,” said squad leader Sgt. Muhesian R. Hassen.

During the scenarios, sensors harnessed to several Marines’ torsos monitored breathing habits, heart rate, breath control, blood pressure and posture in real time.

Researchers took blood and saliva samples before and after the scenarios to compare changes in stress hormone levels. Six platoons from two 1st Marine Division infantry battalions served as control groups for the research.

“When our body is flooded with the fight-or-flight response,” said Elizabeth A. Stanley, founder of the Mind Fitness Training Institute based in Alexandria, Va., “The part of our brain that controls strategic planning and decision making gets impaired. We want to condition the body-and-mind interaction to bring those mental functions back on line quicker and improve the decision-making process.”

The Marines – members of Company L, Battalion Landing Team 3/1, the 11th MEU’s ground combat element – patrolled through multiple scenarios in movie-set-like environments with actors portraying people in a given foreign country.

“It’s the most realistic training I’ve been through in my eight-year career,” said Hassen, 26, a Chicago native. “The setting, the actors, the smell, the emotions, everybody seems like they’re on edge, whether it’s the role players or my Marines.”


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