Background/ Rationale: In addition to spiritual and religious support, Military Chaplains play a key role in the behavioral health of deployed service-members, routinely participating in suicide prevention training, conducting critical event debriefing, and identifying service-members at risk for combat and operational stress reactions. A high risk group for the effects of direct trauma and secondary exposure to trauma, Military Chaplains suffered brain injuries, gunshot wounds and blast injuries in OEF/OIF Theater. In addition, many report combat related stress issues such as compassion fatigue, PTSD, and reintegration issues. While the traumatic experiences of OEF/OIF deployed troops have been well documented, the effects on military chaplains caring for these service-members have received little attention in the research. We are collaborating with the National Guard Chaplain Corps Leadership on this program of research. Objectives:
The aims of this 2-year pilot cross-sectional study focus on describing and exploring deployment and its impact on psychosocial and health characteristics and the reintegration of ARNG chaplains using mixed method approach which includes surveys, in- depth interviews and social network analysis. Specifically the objectives are to: O1. Describe the characteristics of Army National Guard (ARNG) Chaplains O2. Assess the impact of deployment on physical and mental health, reintegration and perceived pastoral role of ARNG Chaplains O3. Refine and select appropriate measures for larger study of impact of deployment on health and reintegration of ARNG Chaplains Methods: This 2 year cross-sectional, exploratory pilot study will employ a concurrent mixed methods approach which includes quantitative methods (surveys, personal social network analysis questionnaires) as well as qualitative methods (in-depth interviews). Part 1 is a web- based survey completed by all participants. Characteristics of the ARNG Chaplains will be assessed by completion of the PCL, AUDIT, BRCOPE, VR-12, ISS, RSES, CES, PTGI, and DRRI (sections C, E, H, J and L). Part 2 will consist of qualitative interviews covering topics including religiosity and spirituality, health including as related to OEF/OIF experiences/deployments , pastoral role, and perceived facilitators and barriers to reintegration . Part 3 of the pilot study will involve Social Network Analysis;15 OEF deployed and 15 non- deployed ARNG chaplains will complete a network questionnaire with the assistance of an investigator which focus on the relational ties that individuals have in their personal communities with respect to social support. This pilot study is the critical first step needed to describe and explore the most relevant issues and to refine and select sensitive measures for a larger, national study of multiple branches of Military Chaplains. This program of research will further refine methods of identifying post deployment difficulties, and promote interventions specific to the unique stressors and difficulties found in their functioning during deployment and when reintegrating to their civilian roles. Use of standardized instruments, refinement of newly constructed questionnaires, and information gained from in-depth interviews will ultimately allow the implementation of innovative, targeted programs designed to meet the needs found in systematic data on this unique group of OEF/OIF veterans, meeting the MHAT call for further research and development of prevention and/or intervention programs for assisting UMT personnel.
The reintegration of veterans into their communities is a priority of the VA and RR&D. This program of research 1) gathers empirical evidence that identifies the unique needs, stressors and, experiences of post-deployed military chaplains, 2) addresses the impact of deployment on the psychosocial and health characteristics and reintegration of military chaplains and 3) obtains results that will inform further research and the development of prevention and/or intervention programs for assisting UMT personnel with deployment stress and reintegration. This innovative pilot study is a critical first step to better understand the unique mental, physical and spiritual challenges faced by ARNG military chaplains related to deployment and reintegration and how we may better serve, preserve and heal our caregivers. Results of this innovative study provide needed data for specific programs and application for successful community reintegration and which may be further generalized in other military caregivers.