Talk to the Veterans Crisis Line now
U.S. flag
An official website of the United States government

VA Health Systems Research

Go to the VA ORD website
Go to the QUERI website
HSRD Conference Logo

2019 HSR&D/QUERI National Conference Abstract

Printable View

1149 — Similarities and Differences in Military Experiences and Trauma Exposures of Academy and non-Academy Trained Women Officers

Lead/Presenter: Michelle Mengeling,  COIN - Iowa City
All Authors: Mengeling MA (Center for Access & Delivery Research and Evaluation; University of Carver College of Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, Iowa City), Torner, JC (University of Iowa College of Public Health and Carver College of Medicine, Iowa City), Booth, BM (Center for Mental Healthcare Outcomes and Research, Little Rock) Sadler, AG (Center for Access & Delivery Research and Evaluation and University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, Iowa City)

To examine military experiences and trauma exposures between Academy and non-Academy trained women Officers.

Two parallel studies were conducted sampling Operation Enduring and Iraqi-Freedom-era active component (AC) and Reserve/National Guard (RNG) servicewomen from five Midwestern states. Sampling was stratified by rank (enlisted and officer), with officers oversampled. A mixed methods design was used; with focus group findings informing items included in the subsequent computer-assisted telephone interview (CATI). Thematic content analysis identified common themes.

Nine focus groups were held: 3 RNG Officers, 3 AC Officers, and 2 Academy Officers (N = 36). Common themes of women Officers included: having to prove oneself, double standards, isolation ("When you're the only one, and the only other women are higher ranking than you, you really can't form friendships and you can't really pal around with the people that are below you"), and the career-ending consequences of sexual assault. The CATI sample included 25% Officers (N = 340), 38 (11%) were Academy-trained. Most Academy Officers were AC (vs. RNG) compared to non-Academy Officers (92% vs.51%, p < 0.0001). Fewer Academy Officers were still serving (66% vs. 81%, p = 0.03) and they were more likely to have deployed more than once to Iraq/Afghanistan compared to non-Academy Officers (29% vs. 8%, p = .0009). Non-Academy Officers were more likely to experience a lifetime sexual assault (37% vs. 18%, p = 0.03), but the percent who experienced in-military sexual assault was not statistically different (13% vs. 8%, p = .40). Rates of probable PTSD and/or depression was 13% in non-Academy Officers and 0% in Academy Officers. Academy and non-Academy Officers had similar mean scores for resilience using the abbreviated version of the Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale (CD-RISC2). Academy Officers were more likely to indicate they had someone who believed they had what it took to succeed as a soldier (95% vs. 77%, p < .01).

Women Officers expressed similar concerns regarding military service in focus groups, however, interview data identified multiple differences in the two Officer groups' military experiences and trauma exposures.

Understanding differences in Officers' military experiences and trauma exposures and their associations with training (Academy/non-Academy) is fundamental to improving the health, safety, and retention of women Officer and has implications for health outcomes.