All posts by Lesley Kelly

Reserves Day 2018

Brigadier Gerhard Wheeler CBE, Head of Reserves at the Ministry of Defence, provides his reflections on the launch of our research findings, which took place on Reserves Day 2018.

As the Head of the Reserves Directorate in the Ministry of Defence, Reserves Day is the busiest day of my year.   Reserves Day 2018 was no exception as I hotfooted it across Whitehall from a breakfast reception in the scented Rose Garden of 10 Downing Street to the august lecture theatre of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).

The breakfast reception was in honour of the growing cohort of civil servants who serve as Reservists and now make up almost 5% of the Reserve Forces.  It was a real privilege to meet and chat to such a diverse group of professionals from across government, all proud to be wearing their military uniforms for the day.

I made it to RUSI just in time to introduce the Future Reserves Research Programme (FRRP) end of programme conference.  The product of over four years of research, the FRRP has been a ground-breaking collaboration between academics of several universities into understanding the lives of our Reservists.  Set up as part of the Future Reserves 2020 programme it has conducted in-depth interviews with Reservists across the country on subjects ranging in scope from family support to employer attitudes.  The purpose of the RUSI event was to expose the key findings of the programme to an audience of Reserve policy makers from the MOD and the Services as well as Reservists, Regulars and representatives from the families federations.

Following four excellent presentations from the academic teams there was a spirited debate on the issues raised.  Brilliantly chaired by General Robin Brims (the BBC need look no further for a new chair for Question Time), I thought the discussion quickly got to the meat of the issues and generated some great ideas on what policies need to be reviewed to improve our support for Reservists.  I was particularly struck by the difficult balance the Reservist needs to make between civilian employment, family life and reserve service.  Helping him or her to maintain that balance will clearly need fresh thinking that will require policies that are quite different from those we use for their Regular counterparts.  It was also encouraging to see each of the Services coming together to see how they can make best use of the research.

Inevitably the debate continued over lunch, after which I was off to the next event, a Reserve recruiting display at Waterloo Station.  As ever, a busy day, which was hugely enriched by the excellent work of the FRRP team, whose research will add excellent academic rigour to the future work of Reserve policy makers.

To download the FRRP Research Briefings please visit our Publications page. 

Researching the Volunteer Reserve: The Future Reserves Research Programme

We are delighted to announce the publication of a series of eight Briefings presenting the key findings and recommendations from the Future Reserves Research Programme.

The research programme, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the UK Ministry of Defence was launched in 2014, to help identify and understand the range of issues affecting Regular and Reserve personnel as the Armed Forces move towards an integrated ‘whole force’ structure under the Future Reserves 2020 programme of reforms.

The programme comprised four projects, led by researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh, Exeter, Lancaster and Newcastle. Researchers used qualitative methods to investigate in depth the experiences of Reservists, their families and their employers, as well as other stakeholders. Reserves participated in either an interview or focus group discussion: these were drawn mostly from the Army Reserve, but two of the four projects were tri-service.  A survey is also being conducted – this is due to complete over the summer.

The first set of four Briefings summarise the key findings from each of the four projects making up the programme:

Project Briefing 1 Negotiating civilian and military lives: How Reservists manage their military service, families and civilian work

Project Briefing 2Keeping Enough in Reserve: The employment of hybrid citizen-soldiers and the Future Reserves 2020 programme

Project Briefing 3The Role of Army Reservists: An analysis of their experiences, and the attitudes of civilian employers, regulars and significant others

Project Briefing 4Sustaining Future Reserves 2020: Assessing organisational commitment in the Reserves

The second set of four Briefings brings together findings from across the programme, by key themes:

Themed Briefing 1Reservist motivations to serve

Themed Briefing 2Negotiating civilian and military lives: Families, relationships and Reserve Service

Themed Briefing 3Supporting employer and employee engagement in the Reserves

Themed Briefing 4The Reserves and wider civil-military relationships

The key findings and recommendations were presented by members of the research team at an event held in London on 27 June 2018 – Reserves Day. The event was chaired by Lieutenant General Robin Brims, Chair of Future Reserves 2020 External Scrutiny Group and member of the Future Reserves Research Programme Advisory Group.

The research team would like to thank all Reservists, their family members, employers and other key stakeholders who participated in the research, as well as colleagues at MOD who supported the research and all the members of the Programme and Advisory Boards.

Further academic publications will follow the publication of the Briefings series.

For more information see or follow @futurereserves







Online survey aims to find out how Reservists juggle the day-to-day demands of military and civilian life

The UK armed forces are currently undergoing a process of organisational change which envisages a more flexible approach to the structure and functioning of the military.

These changes include restructuring the balance between Regular and Reservist service personnel, as well as greater integration between the two. Reservists are now expected to achieve a higher level of professionalism, provide specialist skills which are difficult to maintain full-time within the armed forces, and provide individual unit augmentation.

The move to a more flexible resource model at the organisational level is mirrored at the individual level. Reservists need to be flexible in how they navigate the various, sometimes competing, demands on their time and energy from their family, civilian employer, and military service.

Our research team, led by Professor Sarah Cunningham-Burley, have developed a survey which seeks to better understand the day-to-day strategies and negotiations that Reservists use to ‘make time’ within their civilian lives to fulfil their military commitment. It explores how those strategies support or inhibit successful navigation between the boundaries of civilian life and military service.

The findings of this survey will be used to help inform the chain of command, the MOD, and the UK Government by improving their understanding of the lived experiences of Reservists. This will help inform policy developments in areas affecting Reservists.

Reservists who would like to participate in this survey can access it via Defence Connect / Defence Gateway. For further information, or if you have any questions or comments, please email:

For more information about the survey please see

Dr Scott Tindal
Negotiating Civilian and Military Lives Research team

FRRP researchers attend Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society

Between the 3rd and 5th of November Professor Vince Connelly and Dr Scott Tindal from the Future Reserves Research Programme attended the 2017 International Conference of the Inter-University seminar on Armed Forces and Society (IUS) to present their research.

The IUS conference on Armed Forces & Society deals with all aspects of military professionalism and relations between the military and wider society, from an interdisciplinary perspective. It is attended by military professionals, those well-established and respected in the field, as well as new scholars. The conference was held in Reston, Virginia – just 20 miles from Washington DC. This was the first time the conference was held outside of Chicago, and was done so to encourage attendance from those in the defence sector.

The conference feels intimate despite hosting around 150 delegates. The field remains relatively small and so many of the participants know each other well, yet were very welcoming and encouraging to those of us who were new to the field. I had some concerns that the conference, like the academic literature in military sociology, would be dominated by those from the USA, and USA-centric perspectives. Yet the IUS lived up to its international name by welcoming representatives from Canada, Europe, Israel, Asia, and beyond. A number of streams were dedicated to research examining security and defence challenges in specific global regions.

This year the conference placed particular attention on its founder, Morris Janowitz, in light of the republishing of his influential work ‘The professional soldier: a social and political portrait’. Originally published in 1960, this work has been republished in 2017. It remains one of the foundational works in the area of civil-military relations. There were two sessions in the conference dedicated to discussing Janowitz’s ideas and hypotheses which remain as relevant today as they were in the 1960s.

The keynote address was given by Professor Hans Joas of Humbolt University Berlin and University of Chicago, who delivered his lecture entitled “Post-national imperialism? A militarist tradition of thinking and its contemporary relevance”.

Significant focus in this conference was given to the issue of cyber security as the new frontier in defence and security. There was also significant attention on Reservists, a historically under-researched area in our field.

Our session was entitled ‘Reserve Forces in the 21st century – balancing work, family, and fighting effectiveness’. In it, I delivered a presentation on behalf of our team where I describe how the MoD and Reservists articulate the skills of the citizen-soldier – i.e. men and women who develop and utilise their skills in both civilian and military employment contexts. The talk was well received, and afterwards I was approached by two other delegates who wanted to ask me further questions about our work, future outputs, and tell me about their own experiences either personally or from their own research. I also met a number of other delegates whose work aligned with ours, and so it was a pleasure to talk with them and exchange contact details.

The conference was one of the best I have attended in terms of its warmth of hospitality as well as the scope and rigour of the research presented.

Dr Scott Tindal, The University of Edinburgh

The Reserve Forces – a hidden population?

Today is Reserves Day and a good time to reflect on how our Reserves experience their service along with their civilian lives.   The academic teams from the Future Reserves Research Programme presented early insights from their research in a workshop at HQ Field Army in Andover on 14th June 2017 – just a week before National Reserves Day.   What were the key issues and how were these debated?

Many of the Reservists who participated in one of our four research projects talked about how they maintained a separation between their military service, family lives and civilian employment. This was similar across all three services as a way of coping with the challenges of balancing different parts of life. Reservists told us how they managed the kind and amount of information they gave, to both their families and their employers, about their Reserve commitments as well as their motivations for being involved.  This was a way of controlling the kinds of conversations and negotiations that are needed to find the time for Reserve duty, whether this is for an evening, weekend or the full two week ADX (Annual Deployment Exercise).

The impact of maintaining this separation is that each Reservist has to work out for themself what works best for them, their families and their civilian employment. These individualised negotiations mean that general support, or even policies, at a high level, do not necessarily meet the needs of the Reservist and those around them.  And, the support that families and work colleagues provide, for example, by picking up on caring for children or older relatives, or swapping shifts at work, remains rather hidden from view.

The research reinforces the fact that our Military Reserve is a very diverse population, and responding to the challenges of recruitment, retention and integration, will need much more than a one size fits all approach.   Reservists come into the Reserve through different routes, with different motivations and expectations.  They are spread out all over the country and often hidden from view – if Reservists don’t talk about their roles very much to family and work colleagues, then society ends up not knowing very much about the Reserves as they are today.

We hope by working together to understand the lives of our Military Reserve today, we can make visible the work they do, and identify how they can be better supported and valued.

Professor Sarah Cunningham-Burley, The University of Edinburgh

Lead Investigator for ‘Negotiating military and civilian lives’, one of the four projects making up the Future Reserves Research Programme.

The Future Reserves Research Programme is funded by the ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council)

Introduction from Major General Ranald Munro

I’m delighted to introduce myself to the Future Reserves Research Programme (FRRP).

Earlier this year I took over as the Assistant Chief of Defence Staff for Reserve Forces and Cadets within the Ministry of Defence.  As Defence’s most senior Reservist, I represent the Royal Naval Reserve, the Royal Marines Reserve, the Royal Air Force Reserves and the Army Reserve.   We have committed to achieving a target of 35,000 trained Reservists by 2019, and are working to create a force in which Reservists and Regulars work alongside and complement each other, meeting Defence requirements in a different way from the past.  This has necessitated a number of policy changes.

I have been a Reservist for 30 years and have experienced first-hand the effects of Reserve service – the opportunities and, on occasion, the challenges – on both my family and my employer.  I have also experienced personally what can affect and motivate Reservists, and the balances that I have had to make to succeed in both my Service and civilian careers.

The long-term research conducted by the FRRP by a broad spectrum of academics will help to identify and understand the range of issues experienced by Reserve personnel, which will then be used by the MOD to ensure that our policies are informed and sustainable.  This independent and thorough research is absolutely crucial to creating sound, evidence-based policy making, and I look forward to being part of the Programme.

Major General Ranald Munro