Researchers, policy makers and federal agencies have been slow in coming to terms with the realities of being in a worldwide conflict in multiple countries with no end in sight and the impact that has on service members, veterans and their families. The Service Member to Civilian conference, to be held in 2014 and 2015, will examine how our nation's service members from all branches of the military transition to civilian life and how we can improve that transition through translational science and service. Active duty service members experience a life of numerous changes in circumstance, with often multiple cycles of deployment and reunion/reintegration with their families and children, communities and employers and schools. The transitions of military life are difficult and exacerbated by mental and physical trauma. Since 44% of active duty service members are parents, these transitions have an enormous impact on families and children. The conference objectives are: 1) Build research consortia that include active duty service members, veterans, reservists, military and veteran-connected families and children, researchers, practitioners and community decision makers;2) Present current research and best practice interventions that will be strategically more responsive to military personnel and families transitioned to civilian culture;3) Examine the challenges facing both veterans and the institutions of higher education where they enroll upon separation from military service;and 4) Involve employers in critical dialogue to bridge the gap of misunderstanding that some employers have in regard to the emotional/mental stability and transferable experiential skills of veterans. The proposed Service Member to Civilian conference is the first national, interdisciplinary conference that focuses on translational research to better understand and improve the transition from military service to civilian life and the impact of that transition on the service member/veteran and their families and children. The conference incorporates four themes - the roles of higher education, families and children, communities, and employers in the transition - interactively. These themes collectively reflect the objectives and aims of the conference to build a research consortium, present current research, develop multidisciplinary future researchers, use current research to illuminate critical issues, identify research needs relevant to demographic shifts in the Armed Forces, and build a cadre of new professionals inclusive of current graduate students, interns, and diverse researchers underrepresented in the academy. Findings from the conference panel presentations and recommendations from participants via collaborative sessions will be developed in to a translational research agenda to move the field of understanding and improve service member and veteran reintegration. Finally, the committee members are committed to sustaining the focus on this key issue through their participation in the translational consortia that will be formed from the conference and continuing as steering committee members for the 2015 conference.
The proposed Service Member to Civilian conference has strong public health significance: between 2002 and 2012, nearly 1,500,000 veterans left active duty;multiplied by an average three family members, the impact is enormous. The transitions of military life are difficult and often exacerbated by mental and physical trauma and have an enormous impact on military-connected families and children. Generating a better understanding of the issues and challenges around reintegration and developing new translational research coalitions to expand our research base will greatly improve the services to and healthy functioning of returning veterans and their families and children.