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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






Keeping enough in reserve: what does it mean to be both a soldier and a civilian?

Welcome to the 1st blog from the Keeping Enough in Reserve project. We are a team of researchers based at Newcastle and Bristol Universities, looking at what reservists think about their unique position as both civilians and as military personnel, and how they manage civilian jobs alongside a Reserves commitment. We are particularly interested in:

  • how reservists themselves think about the relationship between their military and civilian roles; and how the two roles fit together;
  • how they think about their identities as personnel and as regular employers, and how they talk about these roles to their colleagues in the workplace; and
  • what employers understand about the Reserves, how they manage reservists who work for them, and what advantages and disadvantages employers might see in the employment of reservists.

We are also interested in more abstract questions about what being in the Reserves might mean for reservists’ rights and responsibilities as citizens. A lot of the existing military research sees the armed forces and civil society operating as two quite distinct entities. We are interested in trying to think beyond this, and we think that reservists, as both civilian employees and as military personnel, will have some insights on this issue which we can learn from.

Our research will focus on the Tyneside and Bristol areas. These are two quite different areas in terms of their labour markets, their economic histories, their historical relationships with the armed forces, and their current patterns of armed forces basing. In looking at Tyneside and the Bristol areas, we will be comparing and contrasting the two to establish whether there are any significant differences in local labour markets which affect Reserves participation.

We want to look at reservists in the British Army, the Royal Auxiliary Air Force and the Royal Naval Reserve. We will be interviewing reservists from all three armed forces in both Tyneside and the Bristol area, using in-depth interviews. We will also be running some focus groups which will include both regulars and reservists, to get a good sense of how both work together. In addition, we will use data from the Tri-Service Continuous Attitude Survey, and other defence statistics, to put what we find from our interviews into a broader context.

We will also do case study research on a selection of employers in both areas to get a sense of the range of issues employers face when employing reservists. Case study research will be useful in getting information about what different employers do in terms of managing their employees’ Reserves commitments, and will also start to add to our knowledge of how important employer sector and size is on their ability to support Reserves participation amongst its workforce.

If you would like to find out more about this project, please contact Rachel Woodward.


What challenges do Army Reservists’ face when mobilised?

Welcome. This is the first blog from the Lancaster University Future Reserves Research team. Our research is looking specifically at how reservists cope with the competing responsibilities of military service, family life and civilian employment. We have recently finished an important phase in our project, of reviewing research that has already been carried out on the interactions between the Army Reserves and Regulars, between reservists and their civilian employment and the interactions reservists have with their family. The majority of studies focusing on the Reserves have been conducted in the US, with other notable research being carried out in Australia, Canada and the UK. There were several reoccurring themes:

  • Being in the Reserves is reported to challenge the work/life balance. The greatest difficulties seem to be when a Reservist is mobilised and this was reported to be the greatest concern for family and civilian employers.
  • Challenges at the time of mobilisation. Although mobilisation could lead to positive personal outcomes such as the ability to remain calm in a stressful situation and resulting levels of confidence, Reservists also reported being concerned about not being able to address family or civilian work issues. Mobilisation meant family and work colleagues were required to cover roles and initial difficulties were reported to ease over time. Spouses reported family and military support, social networks and regular communication with the mobilised partner as key factors in dealing with practical and emotional stressors such as childcare and concern for the Reservists safety.
  • Reintegration was also reported as a challenge for Reservists, their families and civilian employment.

Our Lancaster team are interested in your experiences of being a British Army Reservist, including the positive and negative interactions between your army employment, civilian employment and your home life. In particular, we want to:

  • understand your reasons for joining the Reserves;
  • identify any barriers to becoming and remaining a reservist you might have experienced; and
  • identify potential resources that may help to minimise potential conflicts and enhance your positive experiences of enrichment across roles.

Our next blog will update you on our own research so far,
Matthew Hall and the Lancaster University Research Team

Ministry of Defence (2011). Future Reserves 2020. Available from:


A welcome from the Chair, Gen John Crackett

Welcome to the Future Reserves Research Programme blog.  My name is Major General John Crackett and I am pleased to be the chairman of this thought-provoking research programme.

I am involved because I am an Army Reservist. I am also the senior Reservist in our Armed Forces and represent all other Reserves; so the Royal Naval Reserve, the Royal Marines Reserve, the Royal Air Force Reserves and the Army Reserve.  My role as a senior army officer is to enable all of these to operate at their best and, as a result, provide an effective Reserve for the country’s Armed Forces.

The Reserves have never been more important. By 2020, they will make up more than 1 in 4 of the UK’s Armed Forces and any decisions made in the near future concerning the Reserves will have a lasting impact on the defence of this country.  As a result, it is critical to base all decisions on robust evidence. To ensure it is valid and valuable the evidence has to be gathered and analysed in a ‘Gold Standard’ method.  I am delighted that four academic teams from some of the best universities in the country (including Aberdeen, Bristol, Edinburgh, Exeter, Lancaster, Newcastle and Oxford Brookes) have joined the Future Reserves Research Programme to provide the necessary expertise to conduct this investigation.

I also welcome the engagement and advice provided by the Economic and Social Research Council as one of our partners, which demonstrates the importance of this research and this programme.

The Programme consists of four studies that will examine a range of issues affecting Regular and Reserve personnel, their families and their employers.  It aims to identify precisely the drivers that encourage our country’s young men and women to join the Reserves and to go on to have fulfilling careers as Reservists.  Most significantly, the studies will provide the definitive evidence base for future decisions concerning the Reserves in all three Services and I look forward to being involved.

Major General John Crackett

How do you research the lives of reservists?

The Future Reserves Research Programme includes 4 research projects, and while reservists are the focus of all of the projects, each of the 4 research teams are interested in different issues and looking at slightly different aspects of reservists’ lives. Some of the main research issues include:

  • how reservists view their own identity, as MOD personnel, family members and as civilians,
  • how they manage their very different and potentially conflicting roles,
  • how reservists and their families balance their work / leisure / family responsibilities,
  • how reservists manage their commitment to their reservist role, and how families, the armed forces and employers can support this,
  • how the policies and procedures within the MOD and civilian employers help support reservists in their different roles,
  • how reservists are recruited, and
  • what the citizen rights and responsibilities are for reservist personnel.

Researchers will use a range of different techniques and methods to help them answer these questions. All 4 projects will spend a lot of time interviewing people on the own and in groups, watching what goes on and thinking about the different views people have and the different issues they face. This will include interviews with reservists, their families, MOD staff and civilian employers so researchers can get a better idea of the different demands on reservist lives. Interviews will also be held with some regular personnel. Interviewing both reservists and regulars will help us understand people’s own experiences, as well as how some of these experiences may be the same, or different, for different groups of personnel. The projects have got permission to carry out interviews with specific battalions from the MOD Research Ethics Committee. This committee regulates all research with Armed Forces personnel to make sure the research is of an international ethical standard which includes making sure people interviewed are not identified in person, and that what they say is treated in confidence.

There will be an online survey next year, which will ask reservists and their family’s particular questions about how they manage the changing roles between family life, having a civilian job, being a reservist, to then being deployed. Another project will use detailed case studies or employers experiences’ of reservist employment and participation to understand how MOD service impacts on civilian jobs. Another group of researchers will work with the same battalions for 3 years, so that see all of the different experiences and get a really good sense of what it is like to be a reservist.

The projects will also review research, policy documents, MOD commentaries and media reports which have already been done on reservists’ role within the military. This helps us understand issues that have already been raised, how these issues may have changed, and what is still the same. Reading existing research and literature helps the researchers to understand the wider context of MOD reservist service and how that can also be used to make decisions about to plan for the future.

This type of research does not come up with rules that are ‘true’ in all cases, but instead gives detailed information to help increase understanding of people’s lives. Researchers work in teams following agreed methods, so their work is high-quality, reliable and the results are validated.

Our blogs over the next few months will look at each of the 4 projects, to see what they are doing and learn more about why they are interested in the lives of reservists.

Kirsten Thomlinson and Zoe Morrison
FRRP Integration Team

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