Abstract: Describing the Experiences of National Guard Members in the Frontier (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

All in-person and virtual presentations are in Mountain Standard Time Zone (MST).

SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

94P Describing the Experiences of National Guard Members in the Frontier

Thursday, January 12, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Jill Baker, MSW, Student/ CAV Director, University of South Dakota, Sioux Falls, SD
Aubrey Jones, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY

Background The National Guard assists during local emergencies, natural disasters, and may be activated by the Federal government during times of war. They can be deployed for many reasons such as to serve in combat, tasked to rebuild war torn communities, or teach skills such as farming and effective land usage (National Center for PTSD, 2012). There are currently about 338,000 service members in the Army National Guard and 109,000 service members in the Air National Guard (DMDC, 2021). Approximately 40,000 Guardsmen conduct State and Federal missions within the United States and its territories and around the world on any given day (Lengyel, 2021). National guard members are undoubtedly an important aspect of the US military, yet they remain understudied in the field of social work. Furthermore, while reserve and guard service members total about 803,000, their family members outpace them at over a million strong. The life of military members impacts the entire family; this is true of National Guard members as well. The purpose of this study was twofold: 1) to develop an exploratory study to learn more about South Dakota National Guard service members and their families (SDNGF) and, 2) to explore the needs of SDNGF who have dependents with special health care and/or educational needs

Method We conducted a cross-sectional survey of SDNGF. The survey consisted of five main sections: (1) background information; (2) information about children with a disability if applicable; (3) satisfaction level of civilian resources and support; (4) perceptions of the military lifestyle; and (5) the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Results Total sample of participants was N = 79. Fifty-five percent indicated that overall military life had a moderate to high impact on their children. Over half (51%) the participants indicated that their geographical location had a moderate to high impact on their children. Deployments had a high impact on the participants with 65 percent indicating deployments had a high to moderate impact on their children. When asked about healthcare, only 22 percent of participants indicated the healthcare in their community was outstanding. Related to mental health, a majority (69%) indicated that mental health care needs improvement. Similarly, 59 percent indicated the K-12 education system was inadequate or needs improvements. Only 19 percent indicated that housing was outstanding.

Discussion Despite the limited sample size, the study provides a unique glimpse into the lives of those National Guard members and their families (NGF) who live in a rural state. The study is the first to explore rural NGF and their satisfaction with community and services. Insights gained from the data will be used to steer conversations that may impact state and local policy, shape military cultural awareness trainings for civilian entities, and inform the general public on challenges and stressors affecting today’s National Guard families. Furthermore, embedding participatory action research into common practice can provide continuous feedback for future actions that promote social equity and social justice for those who choose to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces.