Q4 Transition, tribes and veteran identity

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    Kristina – I can’t make the event due another commitment.

    A couple of ? For Nick.

    We are all tribal – RAF, Army, NAVY – Sqn, Regt, Ship etc etc.

    1. What description of ‘us’ most captures the overall tribe?

    2. Would ‘those who served’ want to be identified by supporting agencies?

    A Veteran is defined by one days service.

    3. Does this low bar to entry dilute the support given to those who stayed long enough to be trained and available to fight; if called?

    Jeff Spencer 07880727042


    Thanks for your questions Jeff, great to have your input.

    The forum will stay visible after the event so you can have a read of the discussions at a later date.


    Thanks for the great questions Jeff, I’ll take them in order and post my thoughts to each one separately.


    Michael Almond
    Physical Health Expert

    Hi Jeff and Nick. I will have a go at Jeff’s Q3
    Answer: If you set the bar anywhere after day 1 you will create a huge problem with people who fall just below the bar for a variety of reasons being disenfranchised, feeling under valued etc… You would also have to match reward or benefit to length or type of service (overseas/combat exposure) the matrix you would have to apply would be overly complex, time consuming and result in even more problems than exist today. I accept some who served long and hard may feel those who volunteered and for whatever reason didn’t may have got an easy or free ride but that is the nature of ensuring no one is left behind.


    Jeff’s first Question:

    We are all tribal – RAF, Army, NAVY – Sqn, Regt, Ship etc etc.

    1. What description of ‘us’ most captures the overall tribe?
    To answer your question Jeff I reflected on where my own work had taken me and the methods I used to better understand my own, and many others journey within the military. To do this I started at the very beginning thinking about why people join the military in the first place and then applying that to what you describe as Tribe.
    I asked myself:
    Why do people join the military?
    What type of background both socially and economically do they come from?
    What attracted them, including me to a life in the military?
    Is joining the military an escape route, if so from what?
    What personal needs does the military satisfy?
    What are they looking for?
    By doing this the first thing I recognised was that we are all firstly human beings who chose to put a uniform on regardless of location or environment and importantly there are certain needs human beings most require or desire. This highlighted that by joining the military all needs are met (Maslow) by providing, friends, somewhere to live, a sense of purpose, a sense of belonging, sense of family, cultural values, being valued and wanted, part of something bigger than ourselves, teamwork, healthcare, security, clothing and pretty much everything a human being needs to exist.
    Add to this the creation of identity (Erikson) and knowing who you are and where you fit and ultimately put these satisfied needs and thoughts behind the wire or on board ship etc, it could be argued that outside of the military bubble could in fact not be as important as all the needs are met. (see attached Military Human™ screen shot from CPD training)
    So, what is the definition of the word ‘Tribe’?
    Cambridge dictionary
    a group of people, often of related families, who live together, sharing the same language, culture, and history, especially those who do not live-in towns or cities
    In the Oxford Dictionary of sociology ‘tribe’ is defined as a social group bound together by kin and duly associated with a particular territory; members of the tribe share the social cohesion and associated with the family together with the sense of political autonomy of the nation.
    Tribe, in anthropology, a notional form of human social organization based on a set of smaller groups (known as bands), having temporary or permanent political integration, and defined by traditions of common descent, language, culture, and ideology. (Britannica, 2020)
    Sebastian Junger
    On a side note, I do suggest that if not already read, have a look at Sebastian Jungers publications Tribe (on homecoming and belonging). He was embedded with the American Marines in Afghanistan and describes the word and its origins really well.
    So, on reflection, I feel that we need to acknowledge why people choose to join the military and what their personnel needs are when joining up to establish what it means to them.
    However, I do think that most of us would recognise that its feeling that we belong to something unique and where the people who have been on a similar journey to us understand us. This recognition and approach is the foundation of the veterans breakfast clubs, in fact the Sebastian Junger Ted Lecture is linked to the main web page.
    This to me says the word Tribe means Belonging and Family.
    But of course, satisfying those human needs within the military bubble is only temporary and all of us and our families will transition out at some point and there will be a need to satisfy those needs from somewhere new (civilian life) and possibly never experienced before. This suggests that an adjustment reaction is going to be experienced by service leavers and families, possibly including feelings of loss. Importantly, it is helpful to recognises that this is normal and to be expected (think about moving to a new house, new job or relationship) but because of the intense personal emotional investment in the Military Tribe this can be unpleasant for some and very disorientating


    Jeff’s 2nd Question:

    2. Would ‘those who served’ want to be identified by supporting agencies?
    Reflecting on this question takes me to considering the core values of the military especially CDRILS as described in another response, and thinking why some feel uncomfortable asking for help or even advice when they need it. Although the modern military are very much more advance today with regards to addressing mental health fitness and awareness and encouraging open discussion, traditionally talking about feelings and emotions (the fluffy stuff) isn’t/hasn’t always been seen as a comfortable thing to do.
    If the core values are who you are and that selflessness means that you put others first, or that there is always someone worse off than you, being identified may feel to some as if they may be viewed as not being able to cope when they feel they should be able to as that’s what they were trained to do. This can lead to some feeling as if they have let the side down, or even being perceived as weak.
    Importantly, this of course is most definitely not the case as in fact, it takes great courage to ask for support and advice when needed and can actually make people even stronger going forward and should be encouraged. Recent Army short videos are excellent examples of senior military staff openly talking about their own thoughts and feelings in an attempt to address mental health stigma.
    However, this does demonstrate how deeply the emotional investment in the military is and can in fact sometimes hinder help seeking. FIMT (2015) found that ‘veterans themselves may occasionally be reluctant or unlikely to identify themselves as veterans even when offered the opportunity’.
    I could argue that there is an irony here, as military people are excellent planners and problem solvers. Most would recognise that generally military personnel try and have a plan A, B and if all else fails a plan C. This is good planning and based around keeping people safe in difficult environments. They investigate resources, gather intel to make detailed and informed decisions. But on occasion as veterans when it comes to gathering intel about how to pay council tax, or that they/we may need to talk to someone about HOW WE FEEL !!, many can feel embarrassed about self-identification and being understood by someone who has had no military experience or journey.
    In my opinion, there needs to be a pre discharge briefing here to highlight the military journey service leavers and their families have been on, and to reassure people that the adjustment reaction experience is to be expected as we all transition and that most of it, but necessarily all, is actually normal. The MOD Transition the emotional pathway is a great tool here.


    Jeff’s 3rd Question:

    3. Does this low bar to entry dilute the support given to those who stayed long enough to be trained and available to fight; if called?

    This is a widely debated question and one that can draw quite a varied and at times emotive response for many. What I did to address this was to view the definition from different angles to establish my own thoughts about what it meant to me whilst acknowledging that the current definition of a veteran is the default position. Firstly, with my veterans’ hat on my initial feelings are that one days service is to broad a definition and should be revisited. Why do I say this?
    If we look at the basic training phase of joining the military, this phase is to expose and introduce interested volunteers to what life in the military would be like and to demonstrate what is expected of them. So in essence initially it could be viewed as work experience even to sort out who actually wants to be there and work for that organisation. Should some feel its not for them that’s perfectly fine of course and allows someone to say to themselves well I tried that but its not for me. Most of us will have had similar experiences when we’ve tried something for the first time and thought, no that’s not for me. I have that response to the slimy skin on custard, disgusting stuff and definitely not for me !!!
    Many non-military organisations provide work experience events including CTP who prepare people for transition to civilian employment. This makes sense as we can find out what is the best fit for us. Importantly, just because you had a work experience with a company it does not mean that you can call yourself an ex-employee of that company as you haven’t actually completed a probationary period qualifying you to be an established permanent employee of the new organisation.
    With this in mind, I think we could learn from civilian organisations here and apply a probationary period (12 month?) when joining the military and having completed certain phases of training. At this point should someone chose to leave after completing their probationary period, that is where veteran status could be applied as is in the civilian working environment.
    Therefore, If someone voluntarily leaves as it’s not for them and that’s perfectly fine, I would argue that veteran status has not being reached at that point as a probationary period has not elapsed. However, if someone was injured or a medical condition develops and they have to leave, it is no fault of their own and they intended to continue their military career, I’d argue that as it’s not voluntary but compulsory, they should be allowed to call themselves a veteran.
    With my practitioners’ hat on, I have to say the default definition of a veteran (1 days paid service) was incredibly helpful when working in the Criminal Justice System. This was because if I was working with someone who had not completed basic training, I could still draw on some of the excellent support services available such as the Royal British Legion and SSAFA. By doing this it allowed access to vital support such as rent bonds, clothing vouchers and food vouchers. This had a huge positive effect on reducing reoffending for those people I referred so it could be argued reduced the risk of the public suffering criminal behaviour. However, in actuality the vast majority of the offenders that were veterans that I came into contact with in the CJS had served in excess of 5 years so it could be argued that they had earned veteran status.

    Ultimately, it is at the discretion of the service charities to decide if support can/could be offered, and on occasion sometimes they had/have already set their own criteria in advance within their own Terms and operating standards and have the right to do so of course.

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    Jim McDermott
    Education & Training Expert
    Perception & Communication

    Great overview Nick. A return to the tribe is very much something that Armed Forces and Veterans Breakfast Clubs provide in often subtle ways.
    I closely observed participants at a Breakfast Club over several weeks and recorded many events related to tribal behaviour, one in particular comes to mind.
    Someone drops a plate in the kitchen which smashed loudly on the floor. Up goes a loud roar of hoorahs from the assembled veterans, “Take his name” someone says. In the same setting (the restaurant area of a pub) in the absence of a tribe of veterans there may well have been some reaction from customers to the plate dropping, perhaps a “tut” or an “oh dear” but veterans cheering and joking about the incident found themselves immediately transported back to the days of raucous banter and being part of a cohesive group/tribe in the soldier’s canteen or the NAAFI (or other service equivalents).


    Total agreement Jim, I think one of the first things that people notice when they leave is the absence of the banter and humour in everything. To laugh in the most ridiculous of environments or be at a meeting where people are throwing comments around and laughing together could be viewed as a little bit odd by those who may have not experienced it. I have seen it before though within HMP, Police and NHS. I think it relates to coping strategies and keeping each other motivated and moral up. That’s why the breakfast clubs work, they allow people to reconnect and satisfy a long lost need to feel part of again. Its all about that Fluffy Stuff no one talks about !!!




    Thanks for the thoughts. I believe we (VAPC) should do something similar once the dust settles on our strategy.

    Q1. Mike, Changing any system is always a challenge, but I differ in that I believe we do need a new criteria – albeit, that those already out of service hold ‘grandfather’ rights. New joiners should have new rules? The increased capacity to support those who achieved a nominated threshold would be worth the challenge.

    Q2 and Q3 This mostly relates to what we call ourselves: ex-RAF, Ret’d Service, veteran etc. Many dislike the ‘ageist’ description of veteran, and civilians often don’t ‘think’ about young vets. On top of that is the ‘question’ – have you served. Until we truly tag SP, we will never really get support agencies to use the Covenant or increased toolkit available to treat us. The census is good, but doesn’t touch the surface of a real local needs analysis. What is true is our dislike of asking for help – we are built to be fixers, and therefore, as a tribe, find it harder than our average civilian counterpart to ask for help.

    There are some really interesting digital platforms evolving. They can be so much of the answer to some of the issues above for the next generation. Regrettably, the MoD don’t seem to be issuing any requirement which brings stovepiped areas into a single holistic platform. That’s a shame. I only hope we are just unsighted, but I am sceptical realist.

    Thanks for engaging.


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