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Understanding Military Culture & Engaging Veterans. Melissa Middleton, LISW OEF/OIF/OND Program Manager New Mexico VA Health Care System May 22, 2013. Photo by Cynthia Castillo, NMVAHCS Flags 10-2011. Objectives.

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understanding military culture engaging veterans

Understanding Military Culture &Engaging Veterans

Melissa Middleton, LISW

OEF/OIF/OND Program Manager

New Mexico VA Health Care System

May 22, 2013

Photo by Cynthia Castillo, NMVAHCS Flags 10-2011

  • Understand the history of honor and commitment that define U.S. Military Culture
  • Understand how enculturation into the military presents unique challenges for reintegrating into civilian life.
  • Understand what you can do to build an alliance with Veterans and family members
u s air force airmen
U.S. Air Force “AIRMEN”
  • Mission: Fly, flight, and win…in air, space, and cyberspace.
  • Responsibility: Conducting military operations in the air and space. The Air Force  acts in the defense of the Nation by deploying aircraft to fight enemy aircraft, bombing enemy targets, providing reconnaissance, and transporting other armed services.
  • History: The Air Force began as the Army Air Forces during World War II, becoming an independent branch of the military and full partner with the Army and Navy in 1947.
  • Core Values: All members of the Air Force, regardless of title or rank, follow three core values:
    • Integrity first
    • Service before self
    • Excellence in all we do
  • These core values represent the glue that unifies the Air Force and ties each one of them to those who served in the past.
  • Motto: “Above All”
u s army soldiers

Mission: fight and win wars by providing land dominance promptly, and whenever necessary.

Responsibility: branch of the U.S armed forces responsible for land-based military operations.

History: It is the oldest established branch of the military and the largest branch.

Core Values: (spell out acronym LDRSHIP)

  • Loyalty
  • Duty
  • Respect
  • Selfless Service
  • Honor
  • Integrity
  • Personal Courage

All members of the U.S. Army are termed “soldiers.”

Motto: “This We Will Defend.”

army core values
Army Core Values

Loyalty - Bear true faith and allegiance to the U.S. Constitution, the Army, your unit, and other Soldiers.Duty - Fulfill your obligations.Respect - Treat people as they should be treated.Selfless Service - Put the welfare of the Nation, the Army, and your subordinates before your own.Honor - Live up to the Army Values.Integrity - Do what's right, legally and morally.Personal Courage- Face fear, danger, or adversity, (physical or moral)

u s coast guard guardians
U.S. Coast Guard – “GUARDIANS”

Mission: Members are known as Guardians who protect the maritime economy and the environment, defend our maritime borders, and save those in peril.

Responsibility: Safeguard our Nation’s maritime interests in the heartland, in the ports, at sea, and around the globe.

History: Resides under the Department of Homeland Security but is considered part of the military service. Operates with the United States Navy upon the declaration of war or under the President’s direction.

Core Values:

  • Honor - integrity is our standard
  • Respect - we value our diverse work force
  • Devotion to duty - we are professionals, military and civilian, who seek responsibility, accept accountability, and are committed to the successful achievement of our organizational goals

Motto: SemperParatus, “Always Ready”for all hazards and all threats.

u s marines marines
U.S. Marines – “MARINES”
  • Mission: “At any time, be liable to do duty in the forts and garrisons of the United States, on the seacoast, or any other duty on shore, as the President, at his discretion, shall direct."
  • Responsibility: The United States Marine Corps serves as an all-purpose, fast-response task force, capable of quick action in areas requiring emergency intervention.
  • History: The first American combat troops deployed to Vietnam and the last to leave.
  • The Marines believe that there is no such thing as a former Marine; rather they say “Once a Marine, always a Marine.”
  • Core Values:
    • Honor
    • Courage
    • Commitment
  • Motto: SemperFidelis, Latin for “Always Faithful” became the Marine Corps motto in 1883. It guides Marines to remain faithful to the mission at hand and to the corps and country.
navy sailors
Navy – “SAILORS”

Mission: to train and equip combat-ready naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression, and maintaining freedom of the seas.

Responsibilities: They specialize in crisis response, special operations, evacuations and humanitarian operations. All in order to protect and defend America and make the world a safer place.

A seagoing force to defend our seas and protect our shores.

Core values:

  • Honor
  • Courage
  • Commitment

Motto: Semper Fortis “Always Courageous”

navy marines core values
Navy & Marines Core Values

Honor:I am accountable for my professional and personal behavior. I will be mindful of the privilege I have to serve my fellow Americans.Courage:Courage is the value that gives me the moral and mental strength to do what is right, with confidence and resolution, even in the face of temptation or adversity.Commitment:The day-to-day duty of every man and woman in the Department of the Navy is to join together as a team to improve the quality of our work, our people and ourselves

active duty life
Active Duty Life
  • Built-in social-life. Base offers planned social activities for adults, child care, and children’s activities, chapel, schools, shopping centers.
  • Defined structure for career, health care, choices of insurance, moving process, etc.
  • Must learn how to adapt to civilian lifestyle- many new choices to make
national guard or guard and reserves
National Guard or “Guard” and Reserves

All branches of the military have Reserve Units

Only the Air Force and the Army have National Guard Units

Since the draft was discontinued in 1973, we rely more on Reserve and Guard Members than any

other time in history.

Half of our deployed service members are Guard or Reserve

  • In general, Reservists will spend one weekend a month in training and attend a two-week training exercise once a year.
  • In times of war, Reservists are frequently called up to active duty. When a Reservist is activated, he or she would then be considered an Active Duty Service Member.
  • Reservists can be called up to support efforts abroad or to backfill positions stateside that have been left vacant by deployed, active duty personnel
the national guard
The National Guard
  • State-based branches of the military, made up of the Air National Guard and the Army National Guard
  • Guard units are combat-trained and usually deployed to their own state
  • They can also be deployed to other states or overseas at times of emergency or war
  • Training is normally conducted one weekend per month, and one two-week period each year.
  • Guardsmen and women are sometimes called the “Citizen Soldier.”
  • The National Guard is under the command of the governor of the state in which the member serves.
  • Upon agreement with the governor, guard units can be deployed to other states or other nations in support of emergency or war fighting efforts.
  • Since 2001, roughly 47% of both Air and Army National Guard troops have been deployed to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan.
air guard and army guard
Air Guard and Army Guard
  • Multiple Deployments
  • Can impact civilian employment, continuity of education, civilian retirement, health care coverage, family life, and rest of civilian social support system
  • Guard & Reservefamilieslack the support of living on a military base
  • Guard and reserve deploy and then come home to their regular jobs, integrating back into the community.
military culture
Military Culture

“ By the Book”

“There’s a right way, a wrong way, and the military way”

Warrior Culture- Bravery, Courage, Duty

Focused, Action Oriented, Physical Strength

Enjoy being part of a team

Loyal to Comrades- Leave no Man Behind!

Desire to maintain control in every situation

Survival requires “doing things the right way”

Protective of family and civilians

The Mission comes first above all else

Absolutely no patience with “Slackers”!!!

importance of tradition
Importance of Tradition
  • Ritual & Ceremony very important
  • Traditions pervasive throughout all stages
  • Detailed symbolism behind ceremonies
  • Strong attachment to United States Flag
  • Rituals paired with emotional experiences
  • Masculine grief expressed with action
  • Rituals surrounding deaths help with coping
  • Illustration from Burial episode in “ The Unit”
battlefield skills that make reintegration challenging
Battlefield Skills that Make Reintegration Challenging
  • Safety- Situational Awareness can become Hyper-vigilence
  • Trust and Identifying the Enemy- Assume everyone is the enemy
  • Mission Orientation- Task before relationship
  • Decision Making- follow orders
  • Response Tactics- Storm the Gates, Strike Hard & Fast- Short Fuse
  • Predictability & Intelligence Control- Vary routine to evade enemy
  • Emotional Control- Suck it up- Numbing of ALL Emotions
  • Talking about the War- Afraid the flood gates will burst completely, scare self & others
social challenges
Social Challenges
  • Long deployments, with family adjustment to life without servicemember/Veteran
  • Different worldview
  • May return with physical health problems and/or mental health problems
      • Pain, back problems, knee problems, PTSD, depression
      • Lack
  • Lack of employment opportunities to match their job skills
  • High unemployment rate
  • Children may be coping with a returning parent, changed by war
older veterans
Older Veterans
  • Declining Health, Many with Chronic Pain
  • Some Have Strained Family Relationships
  • Loneliness & Depression - Need Peer Support
  • Vietnam Vets Remember Nation’s Disrespect
  • Korean Vets may feel forgotten “Forgotten War.”
  • May Have Limited Computer Skills and Access
  • Need Help with Community Integration
  • Need Special Volunteer Opportunities
  • Want Help Learning about Appreciation Events
engaging veterans
Engaging Veterans
  • Deserve to be respected & admired for service
  • They appreciate seeing people show honor to Active Duty Service members and Veterans
  • Disrespect to one Vet is felt by many Vets
  • Never ask them if they had to kill anyone!!
  • DO ask what their job (MOS) was in the military
  • Listen when they tell you their stories
  • Thank them for their service!!!!
engaging veterans1
Engaging Veterans
  • Don’t surprise a Veteran (i.e. coming up behind them and touching them on the shoulder)
  • Announce your presence and introduce yourself
  • Let them know you’re here to help them and explain your role
  • Mean what you say, say what you mean
  • Remember that Vets are trained to meet aggression with aggression
engaging veterans2
Engaging Veterans
  • Understand that crowded spaces, confined areas, and loud noises may be difficult
  • Understand that some may seem standoffish, closed, suspicious. Determining “friend or foe”
  • Understand that they may be see ethnic biases – be hypervigilant
  • Understand the sensitivity around discussions of politics and war
recovery model approach
Recovery Model Approach

Let returning Vets know problems readjusting to community after a war situation are normal. Offer help in terms that they are more likely to value and accept: "How can I help you get your feet on the ground? How about some help with a job? How about letting me help you put your GI bill privileges to work? How can I help you get into school and stay in school? How can I help you and your family make sure that you have your budget under control?"

things to say to a veteran
Things to Say to a Veteran
  • Did you serve in the military?
  • Which branch?
  • Thank you for your Service.
  • Welcome Home.
  • Ask about their MOS (Military Occupational Specialty)
  • Ask if they deployed and where to.
things not to say to a veteran
Things Not to Say to a Veteran
  • “Did you kill anybody?”
  • “Why are we even over there?”
  • “I don’t believe in the War.” (etc.)
  • Discuss political leanings or other beliefs about war.
  • Don’t make assumptions. A very young looking Veteran may have a lot of combat experience. And older Veteran may have recently discharged.
  • Hammond, J., Brigadier General (ret), M.A. ; Knight, IV, Roger A., “Military Culture and the Challenges of Coming Home.” From the War Zone to the Homefront II, Redsox Foundation and Massachusetts General Home Base Program. On-demand Web Training. March 2013. http://mghcme.org/courses/course-detail/from_the_war_zone_to_the_home_front_ii
  • http://www.mycareeratva.va.gov/Resources/Pages/MilitarytoCivilian.aspx. Last retreived 06/04/2013
tools to educate yourself on military culture
Tools to Educate Yourself on Military Culture
  • http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/ptsd101/flash-files/Military_Culture/player.html
  • http://www.essentiallearning.net/student/content/sections/Lectora/MilitaryCultureCompetence/index.html
  • http://www.defense.gov/specials/insignias/enlisted.html