Obviously with the wars going on, handling issues around deployment and ops tempo, I think our... operation tempo are the most pressing kinds of needs. The folks that are deploying, when they're deployed they're obviously gone; that's the strain and they're exposed to all the things that they are. When they come back they're part of a skeleton crew that's trying to man the shop while they're at home and they're working enormous hours just to try to get the bare minimum finished.
Longitudinal research, which is the bread and butter of a lot of family researchers, is incredibly difficult to do in the Military because both deployment cycles and just the change of station cycles that they go through. People are moving all the time and they're not moving in predictable ways.
Often if you're trying to do research with a school district or the mental health center, you have the whole proposal designed and now you try to recruit sites. And I wouldn't approach Military research that way.
With a reasonable amount of effort, not more effort than is sustainable, that you can harness the infrastructure and the resources that they have in place to do things that will in fact make Air Force communities healthier and I think that's pretty encouraging.
A lot of the problems that some people are interested in reducing and serving families are many of them have similar risk and protective factors related to them.
You can see that there are few key elements that if you leveraged community-wide improvements on those things you would naturally end up having an impact cross a vast array of outcomes.
There are empirically supported activities to address those problems or those risk factors. They are related to almost every behavioral health outcome that one would want to reduce and so you get sort of a double benefit by doing that not only do you improve the communities health on something important like depressive symptoms but you then are naturally driving down an array of outcomes that would be almost impossible trying to chip away one at a time to be able to marshal the resources to do that.
I think that we know very little about the kind of ways in which these repeated deployments are going to have the effects that they have on families and on Military members and even what those effects will be and for whom and how we can predict that and what the mechanisms of that are. I mean we just haven't had wars that behave this way before.
There's a lot going on and there's no easy centralized resource.
If you're interested in longitudinal studies, let's just say for instance, the effect of deployment on children. Well you're talking about a first deployment. If you're talking about a first deployment you're almost talking about different people than people who are now on their second, third, or fourth deployment. If you're talking about any deployment at all, you're mixing them all up together and you at least want to be tracking something like that as a factor.
I think that you should prepare from the outset for this being a study, a sample that nearly instantly disperses far and wide, and collect very aggressively, collect three contact information; not just from the family, but who everybody's mother was, and everybody's friend and anybody's anything that they will give you as much, as many different ways of trying to reconnect with this family as possible
Because non-Military researchers think that there's far more tracking of those kinds of things then than there really is.
Of course the biggest incentive of all for families to participate is a sense that this is useful and is going to be useful for other Military families and if they really buy into the importance of what they're doing, it's going to be a lot easier to be able to get their continued participation.
I have to say it's for me personally, this is been the most gratifying and humbling and challenging work of my professional life. The sacrifices and the sense of duty and responsibility that both the Military members and their family members and then it extends to their children and their parents. I've met some of the nicest and most dedicated and wonderful people through this research initiatives and the opportunity to do anything to be able to benefit their lives.
It's just you know a very gratifying position to be in.
It is worth doing because the people are so amazing. The families have done so much and it seems like the least you can do is to try to make their lives a little easier and go a little bit better.