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EMPLOYMENT / EDUCATION / TRAINING

Beyond being the best: educating for narrative repair in transition from British Army to ‘Civvy Street’

October, 2020
Article:

This thesis uses the author’s personal experience of transitioning away from a career in the British Army to highlight how the unique nature of military life and work can present challenges when returning to civilian life and work. Among these challenges is that the intense sense of personal identification with the military, which is shown to be a vital protective feature of military life and work, can cause veterans to experience a crisis of identity once they leave. This may be further complicated if that veteran has (or is) experiencing additional trauma.

Again using the author’s experience, the thesis then goes on to suggest how those leaving the armed forces (including family members) can use the technique of ‘narrative review’ (essentially exploring their life stories) to begin to focus on and consider their post-military futures.

This supported self-assessment process can be adaptable to individual circumstances as well as deployable across the broad spectrum of the armed forces’ community, and can afford those undertaking it a vital sense control as they transition.

While the application of this approach would require adjustment to current Ministry of Defence (MOD) support in the United Kingdom (UK), it does not have to come at a high financial cost. In contrast, the personal and social costs of failing to provide effective military-to-civilian transition support can be dear for all concerned. This thesis proposes an approach that might mitigate at least some of them.

Abstract

This thesis presents a military to civilian transition (MCT) autoethnography to highlight the unique nature of military life and work, and how this can complexify a move back to ‘Civvy Street’. It reinforces prevailing research indicating that the total career and life demands inherent in a military context can lead to the emergence of a profound sense of a covenanted military self, which, by definition, can fragment amid an experience of significant loss as military leavers (MLs) attempt to cross the civil- military gap; frequently accompanied by additional issues of trauma. With a focus on enculturation into the British Army and how that can problematise attempts to construct a transition bridge, the narrative account at the centre of this thesis serves to exemplify not only the findings reflected in the pertinent literature but to illustrate how educating MLs, veterans and their families in the use of narrative review methods might assist them, with support, to co-construct their own transitions. The resulting recommendations are founded on the author’s conceptualisation of a Manoeuvrist Approach to MCT; itself a metaphor based on existing military doctrine and a means of enabling those embarking on or undergoing MCT to harness their personal, situational and support assets to outweigh and manoeuvre around any liabilities. This supported self-assessment process can be adaptive to individual circumstances and can afford those undertaking it a vital sense control in their transition trajectories. While the application of this approach would require adjustment to current MCT assistance in the United Kingdom (UK), such alteration need not be financially expensive. In contrast, the personal, social and financial costs of failing to provide effective support to MLs, veterans and their families can be dear for all concerned. The Manoeuvrist Approach to realising MCT benefits that this thesis proposes might mitigate many of those socioeconomic costs.

Full Reference

Cable, G. (2020) Beyond being the best: educating for narrative repair in transition from British Army to ‘Civvy Street’ . PhD thesis. Canterbury Christ Church University.

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