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Title:Serving on the homefront: the impact of deployment on National Guard spouses viewed through their strengths, supports, and stories
Author(s):Cleeland, Leah R
Director of Research:Ostler, Teresa
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Smith, Douglas C
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Carter-Black, Janet; Kral, Michael
Department / Program:School of Social Work
Discipline:Social Work
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):national guard
Abstract:Since September 11, 2001 the United States has entered a period of increased military action. Over 2.5 million service members have been deployed to the Middle East, with the National Guard playing an increasingly large role in the military interventions. The spouses of these men and women had to learn to navigate lengthy combat deployments. The purpose of this study is to understand the experience of deployment from the perspective of a National Guard spouse. This study uses qualitative methods to explore how they construct their realities about this time. We focus on the meaning-making of these experiences and use the strengths perspective as a framework for the study. Nine National Guard spouses were interviewed. All were partnered during at least one deployment. Semi-structured interviews focused on their essential deployment narratives: the challenges they faced and strengths and support systems they utilized. Quantitative measures were used to reinforce these findings. Data was analyzed for common themes and coded. The narratives revealed the external difficulties they experienced throughout the deployment cycle. Major themes included external and internal challenges and fear of death of the National Guard member. Personal strengths and external supports were explored for their benefit during deployment events. Independence and resilience were found to allow these women to navigate periods of separation. However, additional traits, such as stubbornness and the reluctance to seek help, may have made deployments more difficult. Helpful support networks included their deployed spouse, and children. Friends and extended family varied in terms of supportiveness. Systems like the National Guard Family services also varied in helpfulness during this time and tended to be seen as less effective. Specifically, Family Readiness Groups were largely seen as unhelpful. Suggestions to improve the deployment experience were gathered. Common themes focused on methods to facilitate connections to people, information, and resources. The findings of this study are important in that there is very little empirical data and no outcome studies on National Guard spouses, especially from this most current war. These results have the ability to better inform civilian and military systems about how to provide services and support to this group of military spouses and families. Implications for policy and practice are discussed.
Issue Date:2016-06-28
Rights Information:Copyright 2016 Leah Cleeland
Date Available in IDEALS:2016-11-10
Date Deposited:2016-08

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