Ch. 2


Chapter 2:

Appreciating Unique Needs of the Military Lifestyle


Dispelling the Myth of “Sameness”

People are all the same. Everyone has the same need: They all need to be saved!” Is that how you feel? Are you among that group of pastors who deep-down really believes that folks in military uniform have the same type needs as everyone else?

All humans have certain needs in common, but there are specific needs that military members and their families experience that are different from non-military folks. If you’ve spent significant time around military personnel, you have discovered that the demands of their lifestyle cause them to have needs that are unique from the general public. If you’ve ever served in the military, you’ve experienced the reality of the distinctive needs of military members and their families.


The Hierarchy of Needs—Abraham Maslow’s 1954 model

  • Noticeably absent are spiritual needs (Maslow was a humanist).

  • A good framework from which to start looking at how to touch lives
  1. Physiological
  2. Safety
  3. Belongingness and love
  4. Esteem
  5. Self-actualization


All humans have 3 basic needs: Spiritual, Emotional/Mental, and Physical

  • The order in which these needs are met is an important consideration
  • Could argue that our spiritual need is most significant need
  • Would be in error if assumed should be the first need we address
  • Jesus’ examples of meeting peoples’ physical /emotional needs first before He addressed their spiritual needs
  • Consider Christ’s ministry as a template for ministering to needs of military


What are the unique needs of the military?

1) Separation and Loneliness

  • More deployments than ever

More frequent deployment cycle – keep suitcase packed!

  • Military’s unique stressor – SEPARATION

Dad or mom gone a lot – temporary duty, deployment, combat

  • Inability to cope with separation has major impact on family functioning
  • Frequent deployments — the military lifestyle
  • Very few remote assignments – done via satellite
    • Typical rotation cycle – 3-4 months out / 12 months in
    • Expeditionary Force Concept has institutionalized this.
  • Operational Tempo & Personnel Tempo affecting morale

Number/length of deployments of great concern to service members

  • Reserve/Guard units frequently deployed in support of Active Duty forces

Total Force concept

  • Since 9-11 Guard and Reserve more actively involved in defense of America
  • Reservists recalled to active duty often live elsewhere in country
    • Many forced to live long term in another community
      • If family remains behind, must support 2 households
      • If family with them, may arrive in temporary location without traditional military support networks available to active duty families
    • Many are unprepared to deal with long-term deployment
  • Unique circumstances experienced by these families –
    • Not in the military day in and day out
    • Unprepared for demands of service life thrust on them
    • Spouses can access support services at active duty installations, but are displaced from familiar home / surroundings

Dependents left behind without familiar voice and presence

2) Feelings of isolation

  • Out of touch with ones love the most – extended family
  • Military in strange / hostile environment, foreign language
  • Frustrated by staying in touch while on opposite sides of the world
  • Challenged by efforts to communicate
  • Frequent moves and deployments make connecting with community difficult
    • Family, military branch of service, church (family of God)
    • Sense of belonging is critical to well-being
    • Uprooting can be unpleasant
    • Elitism is a possibility from military & civilian perspective!

3) Sense of helplessness

  • Everything goes wrong” when military member away
  • Searching yellow pages for plumber/heating/AC repairman
  • Dependents don’t have priority health care of person in uniform

4) Fear

  • Military member in combat zone/dangerous environment
  • Occupational hazard – could be killed!
  • Families left behind hear news every day – troops killed
  • Pervasive presence of 24/7 news media leads to continual anxiety
  • Inescapable awareness of war/danger leads to STRESS
    • FEAR may be unspoken, but always there . . .
    • Dependents’ safety in school and community?
  • Unfamiliar and unexpected experiences for all involved
  • Culture shock
  • Insecurity of handling separation

5) Handling financial frustrations

  • #1 issue dealt with by Navy leadership (57% of problems addressed)

[Source: 1999 Navy Leadership Survey]

  • #1 issue reported as “great” problem by military families
    • 62% of young enlisted – money management difficulty
    • 58% burdened by financial indebtedness
    • 46% worried about finding jobs for spouses

[Source: 1999 DoD Installation Commanders Conference]

  • Compensation – concern of Senior Enlisted Advisors
    • Forum commissioned by Secretary of Defense
    • Need to reexamine pay table and recalculate Cost of Living Allowance (COLA)
      • E-5 – E-7 levels underpaid
      • Overuse of bonuses creating “haves” and “have nots”
      • Reserves pay parity needs attention
      • Financial hardship caused by deployment
  • Difficulty paying bills on time . . . with composure
    • Some military families have been reported to be on food stamps
    • Many junior service members work a second job to help families to make ends meet; with service member deployed that income disappears, but necessity for the income may still be there.
    • Many dependent spouses rely on service member to watch children after hours and on weekends, so they can work to help support the family, thus saving child care expenses.
    • These added expenses during deployment significantly impact a young military family’s ability to make ends meet.
    • Reservists recalled to active duty most often leave behind significantly higher-paying jobs.
    • Their family bills will be based on the civilian income, which is no longer available.
    • Combination of emergency loans, spouse employment, second jobs leads to increased stress
  • Maintaining 1 and ½ households is burdensome
    • Military allowances don’t cover all expenses
    • Guard and Reserve hope to return to jobs.
    • Some employers graciously pay difference between military pay and civilian pay.


6) Caring for children in absence of military parent

7) Health care

  • A great concern of Senior Enlisted Advisors
  • Need better dissemination of health care information, including how to receive emergency care
  • Need more TRICARE (health insurance) network providers




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