Military Retirement: Reflections from former members of special operations forces
Land and Warfare Studies Centre
Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science
School of Psychology and Social Science
This article explores the impact of military identity and culture on the retirement and reintegration of members of Special Operations Forces (SF) into civilian life. The experience of retirement is explored through interviews with five former members of the SF. These interviews were analysed to identify the shared experience of retirement including the causes, context and consequences. The data indicated that personal attachment to the unit was heightened by key aspects of SF culture (camaraderie, intensity, elitism and distinctiveness from the mainstream community). After leaving the regiment, participants described the experience of grief and subsequently employed a variety of psychological approaches to managing this emotional response and adapting to civilian life. In general, these approaches sought to replicate the military culture in the civilian environment and avoid triggers that would excite or remind former SF soldiers of their past military identity. This study seeks to enhance understanding of military retirement from an SF perspective and recommends further research into the role of replication and avoidance in the retirement experience.