The transition from active duty to civilian life is one of the biggest stressors for military families, and now a research team from Michigan State University hopes to get a better idea of the specific obstacles they face. The school is leading two programs totaling $1.5 million that focus on the well-being of members of the Michigan National Guard.
The main focus of the initiative is a $1.3 million study led by MSU professor Adrian Blow. Specifically, he plans on looking at how well Michigan National Guardsmen and their spouses, children and parents cope with transitioning to civilian life. The second part of the two-part program will involve Blow leading training for mental health professionals specific to treating veterans and their families.
"If we can identify common themes among those who flourish during extremely stressful times, we believe the project can inform prevention and intervention programs in ways that promote wellness for servicemembers and their families," Lisa Gorman, who is helping Blow lead the study, told MSU News.
Michigan is a good state to get an idea of the impact leaving the service can have on a military family. Approximately 16,000 members of the state's National Guard served in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the school. The research begins at a crucial time when thousands of troops are slated to come home from Afghanistan over the next two years. Officials estimate that about 300,000 servicemembers will separate annually for the next four years.
The study also comes as the Department of Defense prepares to launch its revamped Transition Assistance Program (TAP) in November. Among the most significant changes to the program is a five-day workshop aimed at helping soldiers make a smoother transition from military to civilian life. It will also provide them with everything from employment workshops to information on briefings on veterans' affairs.
"The United States Army is committed to ensuring a life-long success of our soldiers, preparing our soldiers for transition by enhancing the training and service models," said Army Adjutant General Brig. Gen. Jason T. Evans.
Although the latest improvement to the TAP starts in November, it's not the last one the DoD plans on making in the near future. The next phase is expected to begin early next year and continue through October 2014. It will focus more on individual transition asssistance and financial planning.