Doctor of Philosophy
Purpose: Since September 11, 2001 military personnel have experienced a pattern of frequent deployment and reintegration, known as the deployment cycle. Deployments present unique challenges and opportunities to military personnel with lasting effects. This study examines group differences based on risk and protective factors, which were grouped into four domains (physical, mental, social, and spiritual) according to the Comprehensive Airman Fitness model in use by the U.S. Air Force to teach and increase resilience. The groups represent various levels of exposure to deployment dangers, up to and including combat, and time, recent deployment within two years and past deployment more than two years ago.
Method: Secondary analysis was conducted with the 2013 Air Force Community Assessment Survey, a large, anonymous survey collected among U.S. Airmen. Discriminant analysis was utilized to determine and describe group differences.
Results: The null hypothesis of no difference between group centroids was rejected. The primary group difference existed between Airmen who experienced combat and all other Airmen. The result of the discriminant analysis demonstrates at least two, possibly three, distinct groups exist among Airmen related to deployment experiences. The discriminant analysis generated six functions. Health and PTSD demonstrated the highest discriminant ability, although social support systems also played a significant role. Recent deployers reported higher levels of resilience and hardiness compared to past deployers regardless of exposure to deployment danger and combat. Meanwhile, past deployers reported higher levels of spirituality across all groups.
Discussion: This study utilized aspects of resilience theory through the incorporation of time and a person-in-environment approach to the study of deployment and resilience. Implications related to social work practice include assessment of deployment frequency and the cumulative effects of deployment stressors. A specific policy recommendation is to ensure adequate leadership training in resilience promotion, as leadership represented an important component of resilience in this study. Finally, future research following this study could include qualitative analysis and studies utilizing more comprehensive scales among Airmen.
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