Tag Archives: responsibilities

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.


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

Email us at: info@future-reserves-research.ac.uk.