[1.2] Military Culture Discussion Construct your definition of military culture. As you define military culture, remember to consider the biological, psychological, social, and spiritual dimensions. Each branch has core values that may be worth reviewing. While you study and contemplate the definition of military culture, you need to delineate aspects that might lead an individual towards a result of social exclusion such as homelessness, drugs, and alcohol abuse, etc. The Hall article is most helpful for this. 300 words and include references.



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Adler School of Professional Psychology
M.A. in Military Psychology (online)
MAMP 508
Culture and Diversity in the Military
“Military Cultural & Terminology”
Presentation By…
Joseph E. Troiani, Ph.D., CADC
Director – M.A. Military Psychology (online)
Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology
Founder of Military Psychology @ Adler
Adler School of Professional Psychology
Commander, United States Navy (retired)
Who are those who are serving or
have served in the Military?
“Someone who, at one point in
their life wrote a blank check
made payable to ‘The United
States of America’ for an amount
of ‘up to and including their life”.

Marine Corps
Air Force
Coast Guard*

There is Also the…

Active Duty
National Guard
Reserve Component
What Do You Call Them?
Marine: Marine
Navy: Sailors
Army: Soldiers
Air Force: Airmen/Airwomen
Coast Guard: Coast Guard – “Coasties” or Guardians
National Guard: Guardmen/Guardwomen
Reserve: Reservist
When is doubt – Sir or Ma’am will do just fine.

Army – Active component and two
Reserve Components
– Army National Guard
– U.S. Army Reserve

Oldest and Largest Ground Force
Fairly Rigid Separation of Officers and

Navy – 2nd largest force
– One Reserve Component
– No National Guard

Mission is to maintain freedom of the
Two Primary Types of Duty – Shore Duty
and Fleet Time
Junior and Senior Enlisted are Rigidly
Separated, as are Officers and Enlisted.

Marine Corps – Active and Reserve
Component (No National Guard)
Primary Mission is to Seizure/Defense
of Shore.
Highly Competent Land Force
Officers and Enlisted Rigidly
Separated for Discipline and “C2”
(Command & Control) Purposes.

Air Force
– Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve

Youngest Branch of the Military
In General, a More Highly Educated
Separation of Officers and Enlisted Can
be Less Rigid than other Branches.

Coast Guard
– During peacetime, part of the
Department of Homeland security
(DHS) charged with protecting public
and the environment.
– Counterdrug Mission
– Has maritime and customs
responsibilities during wartime.
– Is deployed overseas.
Other Tips

Military Acronyms:
– For the military they are a second language.
– Stop and ask them what it is.
– Do not ask what it stands for.

You may not understand that either!!
Terminology & Acronyms

Gun Deck
Take Leave
Fleet Marine
Military Terminology & Acronyms.

Deployment(s) Defined…
The number of times
a service member
has served in Iraq
and Afghanistan.
Combat Deployment(s)
The number of times
a service member is
deployed to a
combat zone.
deployments may
vary from 9 to 12
months. Extensions
of 90 to 120 days
are common.
Number of Times in a Combat
Environment Defined…
The number of times a
service member has
been in a combat
Number of Times in Combat
The number of times a
service member has
been exposed to
gunfire, firefights,
the wounded,
corpses, roadside
bombs, suicide
bombers, and
Best Practices

Educate yourself on the military.
Be aware of mental health challenges and be
knowledgeable of where to refer if needed.
Understand that the transition back into
civilian life is again another culture shock
and the more structured the program the
better the Veteran will do.
If certain steps need to be taken, have a list
of the steps for the Veteran to follow and
have point of contacts for them to reach out
Actively listen to the Veteran’s needs.
Best Practices, Cont.

Educate the Veteran on what services you offer and how
the Veteran (and family) will benefit from your program.
Be straight up, if your program will not fit their’ needs
let them know.
Become acquainted with Veteran resources in the
community these take many forms:
– DAV, VA, Student Veteran Organizations, American
Legion, VFW.
Keep in mind that accommodations may be needed but
the Veteran will be apprehensive about asking.
Give the Veteran an opportunity to lead.
Create a Veterans mentorship group.
Lastly, do not talk about military service unless there are
certain questions that need to be answered or the
Veteran brings it up in conversation.
Five Words You Should Never Say
Have You Ever Killed Anyone?
Five Words You Should Say
Thank you for your service.
A Thought To Remember
“The soldier, above all other
people, prays for peace, for he
must suffer and bear the
deepest wounds and scars of
General Douglas MacArthur
The Importance of Understanding Military Culture
Lynn K. Hall, Ed.D., NCC, LPC (NM), ACS
Regional Assistant Dean
University of Phoenix
800 E. Camino Diestro
Tucson, AZ 85704
520-297-3747 (H)
520-247-4364 (W)
lynn.hall@phoenix.edu (W)
jclkh@msn.com (H)
Lynn K. Hall spent almost 10 years working as a school counselor for the Department of
Defense School system in Germany, at both the middle and high school levels. She went
on to spend 7 years as a counselor educator at Western New Mexico University and
authored a book entitled Counseling Military Families: What Mental Health
Professionals Need to Know published in 2008. She has spoken at regional and national
conferences about her experiences working with military families. She is currently
working with the counselor education programs in four Western states for the University
of Phoenix.
The Importance of Understanding Military Culture
Lynn K. Hall, Ed.D.
Social workers can make a significant contribution to military service members and their
families, but first it is essential that the worldview, the mindset, and the historical
perspective of life in the military are understood. Unless we understand how the unique
characteristics of the military impact the service members and their families, we cannot
work effectively with them. In addition, unless we understand their language, their
structure, why they join, their commitment to the mission, and the role of honor and
sacrifice in military service, we will not be able to adequately intervene and offer care to
these families.
Military culture, worldview, deployment, dependents, change of station, honor, sacrifice
The Importance of Understanding Military Culture
All of us in the helping professions have a passion for helping others find
solutions to the issues that are causing then concern, as well as helping to make their lives
more productive. In order for that to happen when working with military personnel and
their families, we first must pay attention to the culture of the military. Social workers
can make a significant contribution to military service members and their families, but
first it is essential that the worldview, the mindset, and the historical perspective of life in
the military are understood. Social workers, just like other helping professionals, already
pay attention to the cultural diversity of the people they are working with. The unique
culture of the military is, indeed, a diverse group of people in American society that must
be understood as uniquely different from the civilian world. “All experiences originate
from a particular cultural context; the [social worker] must be attentive to this context and
the role that cultural identity plays in a client’s life” (Dass-Brailsford, 2007, p.78). As
Reger, Etherage, Reger and Gahm (2008) state, “to the extent that a culture includes a
language, a code of manners, norms of behavior, belief systems, dress, and rituals, it is
clear that the Army represents a unique cultural group” (p.22). While the article written
by these authors focuses on the Army, each of the military services have components that
are both unique to that service, as well as common across the military.
David Fenell (2008) points out that while there are “cultural, religious and ethnic
diversity within the military, the military is a culture in its own right” (p.8). It is,
therefore, the responsibility of ethical practitioners to be well versed in the three
multicultural competencies (Sue, Arredondo & McDavis, 1992) which include (a)
becoming aware of our own behavior, values, biases, preconceived notions and personal
limitations; (b) understanding the worldview of our culturally different clients without
negative judgment; and (c) actively developing and practicing appropriate, relevant and
sensitive strategies in working with our culturally diverse clients (Hall, 2008).
While this article will not attempt to cover all three multicultural competencies, it
is essential to consider the second competency of understanding the unique worldview
and culture of the military in order for social workers to work to the best of their ability
with this culturally diverse population. Understanding the worldview of the populations
we work with, in this case, means the importance of obtaining the necessary knowledge
to feel competent in working with military families (Hall, 2008). Some of the challenges
in working with military members and families include an understanding of the
acronyms, the rank and grade system, the beliefs and assumptions – both spoken and
unspoken – held by most who chose this lifestyle, the fears, goals, and complications of
living with long and frequent absences of one parent (or two in some cases) as well as the
required frequent moves, and the more subtle lifestyle changes that military families must
endure and, in most cases, survive with amazing resiliency and success. It is also
important to sometimes be aware of what is not being said, and understand the restricted
nature of the military with its many boundaries, rules, regulations and habits. It may also
be necessary to acknowledge that some members of the military may actually feel
trapped, particularly those who are from multi-generational military career families (Hall,
Reasons They Join
One place to begin is to consider why people join the military in the first place.
Wertsch (1991) identified four key reasons why young people in our society make that
life changing decision. These are a) family tradition, b) benefits, c) identification with
the warrior mentality, and d) an escape. While it would be impossible to identify every
reason that young people join the military, some aspects of these four seem to
consistently be present in making this decision. In working with career military families,
understanding what initially led them into the military also helps us understand the
decision to make the military a career.
Family Tradition
When asked why a young woman chose to join and then make the military a
career (Hall, 2008), she said she came from a military family so she understood the
culture and she explained that she was rather anxious about the possibility of living in the
civilian world. Having spent most of her life living on military installations, going to
schools either near or on the installation, she realized as an adult that she knew nothing
about living outside of the military. As she experienced the civilian world through
friends and college, she found it was an uncomfortable, insecure world, with too many
choices and too much freedom. Young people who grew up in the military often share
that they later joined the military because it was more comfortable than civilian life. An
Air Force veteran stated “I think it is important to note that many families have numerous
members who have served our country proudly and have provided them the emotional
support to complete their tasks” (Wakefield, 2007, p.23). Kate Blaise (2006) says her
interest in the military started by learning about her Civil War ancestors. She shares that
her father probably never imagined he would eventually have not one, but two daughters,
leading troops in the Middle East.
Henderson (2006) suggests that financial concerns almost always contributes to a
decision to join the military. She points out that those who join for the amount of money
they will receive from the military “tend to come from places that lack other economic
opportunities” (p. 22). The military is often also seen as an option for young people who
don’t have clear future plans and see the military both as a transition and a place of
service, until they decide what they want to do with their lives. These young people may
not yet see themselves as college material, but they are aware that working for minimum
wage is not what they want out of life.
In addition to the benefits of a steady income and a transition period, the military
has been called the “great equalizer” for many in our society. A high percentage of lower
income youth have correctly seen the military as a road to upward mobility, education,
respect and prestige that they perceive would be impossible if they remained in the
civilian world (Hall, 2008). The military has indeed set a standard for the integration of
ethnic groups and gender as it remains a relatively safe world for the families of lower
income service members and their families (Schouten, 2004). Wertsch (1991) shared that
many of the African-American military brats she interviewed experienced racism for the
first time as adults in civilian communities and often “grew up acutely conscious of the
contrast between their safe, secure life in the military and the tenuous existence of their
civilian relatives in small rural towns or big city ghettos” (p. 338).
Identity of the Warrior
On a more psychological level, many who join the military feel a need to “merge
their identity with that of the warrior” (Wersch, 1991, p.17). The structure, the
expectations, the rules, even the penalties and overriding identity as a “warrior” are
reassuring while, at the same time, providing service members with security, identity and
a sense of purpose. Those whose personality and needs fit with the military culture often
find themselves making the military a career. A San Diego therapist (Hall, 2008) noted
that the profile of the service member who made the military a career during the time of
the draft is often similar to those who now volunteer, as the military offers a reenforcement of a belief system and a personal identity.
Previous work on the topic of war (Nash, 2007) has explored the “psychology of
war as a test of manhood and a rite of initiation among males in many cultures” (p.17) so
it is not uncommon for young men to merge their identity with that of a warrior by being
a part of something meaningful. Gegax and Thomas (2005) suggest that while military
sons tend to talk about duty, when asked why they followed their fathers to war, their
more personal motivations may have more to do with passing the test of manhood.
Throughout the history of warfare, combat is often seen as a test, and certainly in some
cultures the test, of manhood. “There is no better way to win a father’s respect than to
defy death just the way he did. Indeed, the effort to surpass one’s father or brother’s
bravery has gotten more than a few men killed” (p.26).
An Escape
The military also satisfies a need for some young people to escape from painful
life experiences, “a need for dependence… [drawing them] to the predictable, sheltered
life… that they did not have growing up” (Wertsch, 1991, p.17). Ridenour (1984)
believes that military service becomes the extended family that was not experienced
growing up. Sometimes young married couples come into the military “as an escape
from their respective families [only to] unconsciously run toward becoming part of a
third extended family system” (p.4). However, as Wertsch (1991) points out, “joining the
military in order to put one’s self in the care of a good surrogate parent is hardly the sort
of thing one is likely to advertise; in fact, it is a secret so deep-seated that those who act
upon it … guard the secret carefully” (p.17). This attempt to flee from childhood or
family problems at home, however, often does not solve most problems; sometimes the
violence, gang mentality, or addiction issues are simply brought with them into the
military (Hall, 2008).
Characteristics of our Military Culture
Most of the unique facets of military life that were described almost three decades
ago remain true for military families today, including (a) frequent separations and
reunions; (b) regular household relocations; (c) living life under the umbrella of the
“mission must come first” dictum; (d) the need for families to adapt to rigidity,
regimentation and conformity; (e) early retirement from a career in comparison to civilian
counterparts; (f) rumors of loss during a mission; (g) detachment from the mainstream of
nonmilitary life; (h) the security of a system that exists to meet the families’ needs; (i)
work that usually involves travel and adventure; (j) the social effects of rank on the
family; and (k) the lack of control over pay, promotion, and other benefits (Ridenour,
1984). While “it is evident… that large segments of our society deal with one or more of
these aforementioned concerns and stresses… there may be no other major group that
confronts so many or all of them” (Ridenour, 1984, p.3) at any given time.
Mary Wertsch (1991) defined this military society as a “Fortress” to differentiate
it from the democratic society of most United States citizens. “The great paradox of the
military is that its members, the self-appointed front-line guardians of our cherished
American democratic values, do not live in democracy themselves” (Wertsch, 1991,
p.15). A number of characteristics of the Fortress that Wertsch discovered in her many
interviews with adults who had grown up as military dependent children, are shared here.
Having spent almost a decade working as a school counselor with military dependent
children and youth, the author can attest to the validity of these characteristics.
Authoritarian Structure
The first characteristic is that the military world is maintained by a rigid
authoritarian structure. The family must learn how to adapt its natural growth and
development to the rigidity, regimentation and conformity that is required within the
military system, as these characteristics often extend from the world of the service
member into the structure of the home. It is important to point out, however, that while
80 percent of the military brats Wertsch (1991) interviewed described their families as
authoritarian, “there are warriors who thrive in the authoritarian work environment
without becoming authoritarian at home” (p.25) so it is important to understand that
authoritarianism is not the only model of military family life. However, in those families
where authoritarian parenting is present, some of the following characteristics often exist:
(a) There are clear rules, often with narrow boundaries, for behavior and speech. (b)
There is little tolerance for questioning of authority or disagreements. (c) There are often
frequent inappropriate violations of privacy. (d) Often children are discouraged from
engaging in activities or behavior that hint at individuation (Hall, 2008).
The military tradition of expecting that the service member “run a tight ship at
home” has been an advantage to the career for many military men. Keith and Whitaker
(1984), shared that “the military family lives in a community in which no one dies from
old age, only violently… lead[ing] to an illusion of eternal youth and vigor” (p..156) and
that the father (who is military) outranks his wife because he has a closer affili …
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