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Significance of the Dissertation Study

Over 1.6 million United States military veterans have served in the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq (OEF/OIF). According to Burnett-Zeigler et al. (2011), National Guard and Reserve military veterans represent 38% of the total U.S. forces deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq between September 2001 and November 2007. Prior studies report that military veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq experienced numerous challenges. These challenges include higher rates of interpersonal conflict, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and overall risk following their return from OEF/OIF conflicts and are referrals to treatment centers at higher rates than their active duty counterparts (Burnett-Zeigler et al., 2011).

The transition period for members of the National Guard and Reserves is dictated by the amount of time they served on active duty. More important to this dissertation study, they are not separated from the military but continue to serve one weekend a month and two weeks each year until receiving orders to return back to active duty service for multiple deployments if needed. Some National Guard members and reservists can deploy multiple times, requiring them to transition back and forth between their military service and their civilian employment.

Few studies have examined the transition among of OEF/OIF military veterans, particularly in the early months following their return to civilian employment, which is a critical time in their transition into the civilian workforce. Therefore, this dissertation study examines the meaning of the transition experience to the civilian workplace for post-9/11 National Guard members and reservists after serving in a combat zone. Study findings may have implications for developing interventions to assist National Guard members and reservists during their downtime after returning from a post-9/11 deployment and prior to returning to the civilian workforce.

National Guard members and reservists tend to be older than active duty personnel and have families and more developed career paths (Griffith, 2010). The significant contribution this dissertation study makes is identifying the need to develop and design future military transition programs specifically with the aim of facilitating the successful reintegration of National Guard members and reservists back to the civilian workplace. This study will also serve as a resource for potential future research and development of effective transition programs that may result in the recruitment and retention of National Guard members and reservists, who are increasingly relied upon for our nations’ national defense.

A potential practical application this dissertation study offers is an awareness of the multi-faceted skill sets National Guard members and reservists bring to the civilian workplace. For civilian employers seeking to hire and retain National Guard members and reservists, this dissertation study will offer additional insight to the lived experiences of these military members transitioning from a post-9/11 deployment to the civilian workplace. Human Resource personnel may benefit from learning more about the lived experiences of their employees and future employees by reading this dissertation study. Finally, President Barack Obama’s decision to reduce our military force in Afghanistan and Iraq and potentially end the war elevates the importance of this study since the deployment of National Guard members and reservists continues for an unforeseeable future resulting in citizen soldiers transitioning from a post-9/11 deployment to their civilian jobs.

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Doctorate Dissertation

Published May 2017

(Full text available on ProQuest)




Jean Marie Pyzyk

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 2017

Under the Supervision of Professor Barbara Bales, Ph.D.

This qualitative, phenomenological study examined the lived experiences of 25 National Guard members and reservists representing the United States Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps returning to civilian careers following a post-9/11 deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan. The research question asked: What are the lived experiences of post-9/11National Guard and Reserve military veterans as they transition back to the civilian workplace? The literature review revealed numerous studies focused on active duty military personnel transitioning out of the military and seeking civilian employment, but few studies were found regarding National Guard members and reservists serving in a post-9/11 deployment for over 90 days and returning to their civilian jobs — citizen soldiers. The transition experiences of these members are the focus in this study. Interview questions were designed based on Schlossberg’s 4-S model and Bridges’s transition theory. Six themes emerged from the analysis of this data offering insights on the experiences of these citizen-soldiers: (1) Getting to the core of what matters most and what is valued, (2) adjusting to the civilian workplace, (3) united in education: insider perspectives on Department of Defense workshops, (4) to have, or not to have, transition support, (5) wrestling with a new normal, and (6) transferring military skills to the civilian workplace: hiring our heroes. Recommendations for future research are to examine the curriculum and design of Department of Defense transition workshops, continuing and adult education for recruiting and retaining military veterans in the civilian workplace, and adult leadership programs for military-connected college students. 

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