Hello, I am Stephen Axelrad the chair of the Military and Veteran Evaluation (MVE) Topical Interest Group. One of the reasons why I wanted to start this TIG was to help evaluators navigate the complex web of stakeholders in the military community. Many evaluators have little to no experience in the military and its formal structure. However, the military has a long history of valuing systematic evidence to inform decisions about policies and programs. Many uniformed leaders turn to civilian sources to understand innovative, evidence-based methods for addressing national security issues as well as social and organizational problems that affect the military (suicide, sexual harassment, sexual assault, financial literacy, domestic violence, opioid abuse).
Civilian evaluators are not expected to know everything about the military to make effective connections. Evaluators just need to apply the same culturally responsive methods they apply to other sub-cultures to military stakeholders. Here are some tips that can set culturally responsive evaluators up for success.
- The military is not monolithic: the popular press often refers to the military as the “Pentagon” and makes it seem like there is only one military perspective; the actual reality is far from the truth; the military community is composed of communities that vary based on Service branch (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard), Component (Active-duty, Reserve, National Guard), rank (commissioned officer, enlisted officer, enlisted), career field and other factors.
- Not all members of the uniformed military are soldiers: another common mistake in the popular press is to refer to uniformed military members as soldiers but that only applies to the Army; the other terms for military are – sailors (Navy), airmen (Air Force), marines (Marine Corps), guardmen (National Guard, Coast Guard); these terms are central to their identities so getting the term right will help you build rapport with the uniformed military
- Military installations are like mini-cities: the installation commander is like the mayor and there are usually one or two commands that act like the major employer; installations attract workforces with specific skill sets and interests that give each installation a unique culture
- Leaders are change agents: one of the few consistent qualities across the military system is the value placed on leadership; leadership is frequently defined through rank and other formal authority; however, the military sees leaders at all ranks and leverages peer leaders to create positive social change
The following web sites were developed to help civilian professionals understand military structure
- Global Security.org’s Comparative Command Echelon (e.g., ranks, command units)
- Uniformed Sciences University of Health Science’s Center for Deployment Psychology
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Lesson Learned: Best opportunity for evaluators to help with data-driven, decision making is to come within the first 90 days of a senior military leader’s taking on control of the command. During this period, leaders are in a learning mode, want data relevant to the command, and want to understand ways of improving their commands.
The American Evaluation Association is celebrating MVE TIG Week with our colleagues in the Military and Veteran’s Issues Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our MVE TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to firstname.lastname@example.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.