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University of Leicester - Career soldiers adapting to life after the Army


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University Of Leicester
: 25 January, 2009  (Special Report)
New research from the University of Leicester reveals career soldiers are adapting well to life after the Army.
Those who hone their skills and prepare for life on Civvie Street are likely to prosper because they are willing to be flexible – an attribute that army life has equipped them with.

Researcher Dr Jim McDermott carried out the study as part of his Doctoral research.

He said: “The combat soldier can locate and deal effectively with an enemy, defend him or her self, disappear under camouflage, keep fit and maintain body and soul with life’s essentials. Soldiers trained in a technical skill can, in addition, detect faults, repair equipment, manufacture spare parts, maintain communications, dispose of explosives, lay bridges, construct buildings and amongst a myriad of other skills even provide adequate plumbing. ‘Ex soldiers’ (most do not like the term ‘veteran’) having completed 22 years of military service performing such tasks in defence of the realm, can and do find themselves rewarding and often well paid jobs.”

Dr McDermott found that these successes contradict a generally held notion that ex soldiers either gravitate to ‘security work’ or struggle and fall on hard times. According to McDermott this is not the case: “In spite of the millions of words written about those who sadly do suffer as a result of their service, most fare well in civilian life. “

On 4 February 2009 Dr McDermott will present the key findings of his Doctorate in Social Science on the reasons why long service soldiers succeed. These findings come from the analysis of in-depth interviews with 51 ex soldiers all of whom completed 22 or more year’s service.

He said: “Effectively young men and women who joined the army at 18 years of age or less in some cases, have grown up and grown old in a largely closed and very different society to people in civilian life. At the age of 40, when most soldiers complete their ‘contract’ and leave, they have no job, no position in civilian life and often no home and have to start again.”

During this difficult period, dubbed by McDermott the “Military Mental-Pause” veterans’ military experiences, training and skills are re-kindled and assist greatly in the months and years leading up to discharge and the difficult first year ahead as a civilian. Too old to be an apprentice, yet too young to retire - McDermott found that successful veterans:

• Accept that their army service is ending and begin to prepare well before they are discharged.

• Practice many of the skills acquired during their army service, suitably adapted to suit the civilian environment and recognize that adaptation is the key.

• Gradually modify their own approach to work as they become aware of the lack of knowledge of the military on the part of some civilian employers. They also realise that civilian workers do not work and think in the same way as soldiers.

This research found indications that problematic institutionalisation may be identifiable in those who serve in the military for only short periods but that those who complete a full and satisfactory career of 22 or more years draw only benefit from this major part of their lives.

Surprisingly, given so many changes across the board in both military and civilian life, the thoughts and opinions that long-served soldiers have about the army and about civilian life and work, appear to have changed very little over the last 60 years
The lecture takes place on Wednesday 4th February 2009, 5:30 pm - 6:30 pm in Ken Edwards Lecture Theatre 3 It is free and open to the public.
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