Overseas Military Service and Family Support: An Underexplored Factor in Assignment Success
Crowley-Henry, Marian and Heaslip, Graham (2012) Overseas Military Service and Family Support: An Underexplored Factor in Assignment Success. In: Work and Family Researchers Network Conference (WFRN), 14-16 June, 2012, New York City.
While within International Human Resource Management (IHRM) literature and research, the benefit of training for organization-assigned expatriates to include family and partners has been underlined (e.g.s Bjorkman and Gertsen 1993; Dowling, Festing and Engle, 2008; Ledman, 2001; Qin and Baruch, 2010), this inclusive approach appears lacking in the military service domain. This is surprising, given the regular numbers of military personnel sent on overseas missions (with and without their families). This paper, however, focuses on the remaining families, considering learning from military-specific studies and from the IHRM domain, in sharing the findings of a qualitative research study which addresses the challenges for families when one of the adults is deployed overseas. Personnel within the Irish Defence Forces are required to serve overseas on peacekeeping or peace enforcement missions as a routine part of their service. In general, their partners are strongly encouraged to understand their soldier’s emotional concerns, but the same emphasis is not placed on understanding their own (Hamilton et al, 2009). Indeed, in the Dutch and Irish situations at least, it is fair to say that, “Until now, little systematic research has been done among family members of veterans who participated in international peacekeeping operations” (Dirkzwager et al, 2005: 218). It is this gap which this paper serves to explore. In taking learning from the international human resource management (IHRM) domain with the focus on expatriate acculturation and assignment success, this paper considers how best practice could be implemented in a military context, where family members are better prepared and acculturated for international deployment, thereby alleviating additional stressors on military personnel during deployment. The immediate relevance to the military of this research is evident: in acknowledging the role of spousal and family support in the successful international deployment of military personnel. Specifically, the research objective is to explore the experiences of all family members when one of the adults in the family is deployed overseas for a temporary duration. At a practical level, this focus of research on the partners of soldiers, other adult family members, and particularly on children, will provide the Defence Community with a baseline from which to develop meaningful and useful awareness in this area; and will encourage them to include relational support for overseas assignees’ immediate family members.
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