A new report, funded by the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), has revealed that ex-Service personnel who participated in counter-insurgency (COIN) warfare have special needs and require specific forms of support with transition back into civilian life than those who have been involved in conventional wars…

The report, produced by the Senator George J Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice based at Queen’s University Belfast, titled ‘How Counter-Insurgency Warfare Experiences Impact upon the Post-Deployment Reintegration of British Soldiers’ makes a number of recommendations, which include:

  • Transition strategies must provide practical and engaged support through interactive learning and mentoring. It should not be a ‘tick box’ exercise that amounts merely to the provision of information leaflets
  • Support programmes should avoid ‘transitional naïvety’ through garnering unrealistic expectations of post-deployment prospects
  • Over-identification with military life can narrow soldiers’ identity, making it difficult to shift identity on to aspects of their civilian life

Researchers listened to over 90 hours of recorded interviews with 129 contributors; 20 from earlier COIN operations in the 1950s and 60s, 30 from the Ulster Defence Regiment in Northern Ireland, 70 who fought in Afghanistan, and 9 from other conflicts, to assess the language used and similarities in descriptive language and tone.

Ex-Service personnel who contributed to the report felt that although their experiences were unique, they did not want to create a ‘hierarchy of veterans’ in which their experiences were given more credence than others.

Ray Lock CBE, Chief Executive of FiMT, said: “The Armed Forces, and in particular the British Army, have been consistently engaged over many decades in counter-insurgency warfare, which places unique demands on the individuals involved. Counter-insurgency warfare seems unlikely to go away, and nor do the needs of those affected by it.

“What this report from Queen’s University Belfast highlights is the need for specific support for ex-Service personnel who have been involved in COIN warfare. The recommendations included in the report are an opportunity for policy-makers and service providers to oversee substantial positive change.”

Professor John D Brewer, Acting Director of the Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at Queen’s University Belfast and Principal Investigator on the project, said:

“This research is pioneering, in that it focuses on a form of soldiering that is often neglected in the attention on conventional warfare, and it reveals the emotional strains and tensions caused by COIN warfare.

“The research captured the views of former soldiers in their own words and we hope the Report will give them recognition and encourage policy-makers and stakeholders to pay more attention to the specific needs of counter insurgency soldiers.”

You can read the full report here.