(Posted: February 20, 2013)
As a military leader, I quickly learned that “things break at the seams,” usually the seams of transition. Transition from attack to defend. Transition from war to peace. Similarly, the two primary transitions in any military persons career are also fraught with change, uncertainty, and risk. These two transitions are #1: from the Battle Front to the Home Front (the entire process of redeployment from an extended absence, possibly in combat, and the subsequent reintegration), and #2: from the Military to the Civilian sector.
Transition #1, “Coming Home”, is not easy. Even if combat experiences are not a further complication, the return from extended deployments requires many readjustments to what may have become “normal” for the duration of the deployment (infrequent communication with the home front, realignment of parenting and household duties, loss of contact with others whose lives are also moving on, etc). Understanding these realities helps military members and their families better navigate these difficult waters.
If the deployment included traumatic experiences, then other considerations regarding combat trauma, military sexual trauma, PTSD, and TBI become unwelcome intruders, creating a “new normal.” As well, for National Guard and Reserve members who are demobilized after deployment, the assumption of your former employment is often problematic, despite legal safeguards.
No doubt you can add to this mosaic of factors related to the simple task of “Coming Home.” We will discuss this further on the coming Webinar. As well, some of you may know that Liberty University now offers specific courses addressing this topic. On the undergraduate psychology side: MILT 375 - “Military Career and Community Transitions,” and on the graduate counseling (human services) side: MILT 625 - “Military Career and Community Transitions.”
Transition #2, “Military to Civilian,” is an equally daunting challenge. Some military personnel walk through the door to civilian life with great ease, while many encounter a “foreign” culture with different rules of the road and expectations. The military Services have all worked hard to put more rigor into their respective transition programs, such as recent Army major upgrades to TAP (Transition Assistance Program). These programs are sorely needed, particularly in light of the significant veteran unemployment statistics and a difficult economy. Departing military members who understand and embrace this transition process have the best opportunity of finding meaningful employment or achieving educational goals which enhance their employability. Concurrently, transitioning military members need to maintain “life balance” as they go through what can be an extended and discouraging process. In essence, they have to be resilient.
Each of the transitions introduced above merit further study by military personnel and their families who are (or will soon) navigating these transitions. As well, those who seek to coach or give care to the military need to appreciate the challenges associated with these transitions. Finally, we all need to store up as many “best practices” as possible, for we will surely need them. We will dive deeper into these issues in coming months.
As a final word, God understands all about the transitions of life. As we cling to Jesus, and walk in the light of God’s Word, and listen to the voice of His Spirit; we can truly be “more than conquerors through Him who loved us,” even in the difficult transitions of military life.
Respectfully in Christ,