A Time to Heal and the Importance of Operational Debriefs

Post Traumatic Growth PTG 160510

A message to all combat vets………………….

The Bible tells us that, “There is a time to kill, and a time to heal.” Let there be a time to heal. Let us actively seek and choose the path of healing from this point on. Whether we approve of the combat or not, no reasonable observer could should wish more pain and suffering upon those warriors who answered their nations call in distant lands.

Following a Traumatic Incident:

Immediately afterwards, you might experience trembling, sweating, chills, nausea, hyperventilation, dizziness, thirstiness, an urge to urinate, diarrhea, upset stomach, and jumpiness.

Later that night, you might experience sleep disturbance and nightmares. Some people do not suffer from any of these symptoms; some experience several of them, while others experience all of them. No matter how you react, it is important to understand that your reactions are normal.

In the days following the event, you might be preoccupied with what happened as you relive the experience over and over in your mind, second guessing yourself, and thinking you did something wrong even when you did everything right.

You might be angry, sad, irritable, hypersensitive, vulnerable, anxious, scared, self-conscious, paranoid, and afraid of being judged by others. You might feel elated that you survived, but guilty because others did not.

You might feel numb, robot-like, unnaturally calm, and alienated from those who “have not been there.” Your thinking might be confused, you might experience difficulty concentrating, and you might have an impaired memory.

“To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heaven. There is a time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to reap.
A time to kill and a time to heal.” (Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 – The Bible)

What is a post operational debrief?

A debriefing is any discussion after an event that helps the participants come to terms with it, and learn from it. Hopefully, it helps to gain closure so that event will not continue to cause emotional distress. An informal debriefing can simply be a discussion that arises spontaneously after an event, while a formal debriefing takes the discussion one step further because it’s organized and facilitated to ensure it helps everyone.

Two Primary Functions of a Debriefing.

(1) First, it is needed to reconstruct the event from the beginning to the end, to learn
what was done wrong, what was done right, and to help develop operational lessons.

(2) Second, the debriefing is a time to put everything back together. Remember there might be memory loss, memory distortion, irrational guilt, and a host of other factors clouding the ability of the combatants to deal with everything that happened to them.

When time permits; always debrief – for the operational and metal health of your unit and warriors.

Note: Pain Shared = Pain Divided, Joy Shared = Joy Multiplied


Main image from Marines and sailors with 1st platoon, Company K, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment




About The Author

David K. Devaney SgtMaj USMC Retired 2009 City of Hit Iraq with PTTDavid was born in Geneva New York and graduated from Geneva High School in 1980. He joined the Marine Corps on a guaranteed Infantry contract in April of 1983. After graduating boot camp he was stationed in Hawaii with 3rdBattalion 3rd Marines (3/3). While assigned to 3/3 he held billets as a rifleman, fire team leader, and squad leader. During 1986 Corporal (Cpl) Devaney was selected as a member of Surveillance and Target Acquisition (STA) Platoon, 3rd Battalion 3rd Marine. Upon graduation of Scout Sniper School he was assigned to the Scout Sniper Section of 3/3 STA Platoon. During his second deployment as a Scout Sniper with 3/3 he was promoted to Sergeant (Sgt). After a tour on the drill field from 1989-1991 Sgt Devaney returned to STA 3/3 were he deployed two more times. During 1994 Sgt Devaney was selected to the rank of Staff Sergeant (SSgt) and ordered to III Marine Expeditionary Force (III MEF), Special Operation Training Group (SOTG); while at SOTG SSgt Devaney was assigned as a Reconnaissance and Surveillance (R&S) and Urban Sniper Instructor and Chief Instructor. At the time III MEF SOTG Instructors were members of Joint Task Force 510 (JTF 510 CT); a Counter Terrorism Task Force. In 1998 he deployed to Operation Desert Fox with Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 2/4 and was attached to Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) 572/594 as a sniper. SSgt Devaney deployed again, during 2000, with ODA 135/136/132 to Malaysia as member of JTF 510, working with the Malaysian National Police. After leaving SOTG Gunnery Sergeant (GySgt) Devaney was assigned to Company A 1st Battalion 7th Marine, and spent much of his time training the Scout Snipers of 1/7. Just before the invasion of Iraq, in 2003, he was selected to the rank of First Sergeant (1stSgt) and led 270 Marines, sailors, and soldiers during combat – receiving a Bronze Star Medal for destroying the enemy and their will to fight. During 2004 1st Sgt Devaney was ordered to duty as the Inspector Instructor Staff 1st Sgt for 2nd Beach and Terminal Operations Company, Savannah, Georgia. During 2007 he was selected to the rank of Sergeant Major (SgtMaj) and received orders to Electronic Warfare Squadron 4 (VMAQ-4) stationed at Cherry Point, NC. There he trained a CADRE which in turn trained a massive Quick Reaction Force in combat operations. After two more deployments to Iraq SgtMaj Devaney received orders to Weapons Training Battalion, Quantico, VA. SgtMaj Devaney retired from the Marine Corps on 31 December 20013. He now works as an adjunct combat instructor at the “Crucible’’ in Fredericksburg, VA. David is also on the Board of Directors of the Marine Corps Scout Sniper Association. David’s published work: Books Devaney, D.K. (2007). Surviving combat: Mentally and physically (3rd edition). 29 Palms, CA: USMC. Devaney, D.K. (2015). They Were Heroes: A Sergeant Major’s Tribute to Combat Marines of Iraq and Afghanistan. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. Articles Devaney, D.K. (2011) Enough Talk of Suicide, Already! Proceedings Magazine. Devaney, D.K. (2011) Can PTSD Be Prevented Through Education? Proceedings Magazine. Devaney, D.K. (2012) PTSD Is Not Cancer. The Marine Corps Gazette. Devaney, D.K. (2012) Women in Combat Arms Units. The Marine Corps Gazette.

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