Posttraumatic stress disorder that military personnel experience in their lives emanates from cumulative stressors of pre-deployment, deployment, and post-deployment experiences. The experiences that military personnel undergo determine the nature and extent of the posttraumatic stress disorder they develop during and after their deployment.
Risk and resilience factors are the two antagonizing forces that predispose and alleviate effects of traumatic experiences on military personnel respectively. Bad experiences such as aggressive family experience during childhood, unstable family life, terrible combat experiences, and poor social support are risk factors that predispose one to posttraumatic stress disorder.
On the other hand, good experiences such as proper upbringing during childhood, stable family life, fair combat experience, and good social support alleviate development of posttraumatic stress disorder. Vogt and Tanner (2007) argue that, the balance between risk and resilience factors is critical in prevention and management of posttraumatic stress disorder among military personnel (p.31).
Hence, resilience factors are essential in helping military personnel to cope with traumatizing experiences. Based on case studies, this paper examines the risk and resilience factors that relate to pre-deployment, deployment, and post-deployment of specialists.
In the first case study, the risk factors that Ramirez experienced emanated from combat experience and family strain during his deployment. In the first three months of deployment, Ramirez had to endure long, hot, and stressful fights with Iraqi insurgents, which was his first traumatic experience working as a combat soldier.
According to Philips, LeardMan, Gumbs, and Smith (2010), combat experience is the greatest risk factor that predisposes soldiers to posttraumatic stress disorder (p.1). In addition, Ramirez saw two of his friends dying in an explosion that missed him narrowly.
Since he left his young wife at home, Ramirez constantly worried about her and children, which strained him during deployment. However, Ramirez had resilience factors that helped him to cope and manage the traumatic experiences of the deployment.
Before leaving for Iraq, his parents, wife, and neighbors celebrated his patriotism, which gave him courage and diffused any fears in him; hence, he had no trauma during his pre-deployment period. During deployment, the resilience factor was that, soldiers had strong a bond that formed good social support, which helped him to endure the long, hot, and constant fights with Iraqi insurgents.
Ultimately, when he returned home, Ramirez did not develop posttraumatic stress disorder because his strained relationship and family life came back to normal courtesy of receiving appreciation from his children, and comfort from his father.
In the second case study, bad pre-deployment experience of Johnson was a risk factor of posttraumatic stress disorder because he had been living alone since his parents divorced and Hurricane Katrina had displaced him from New Orleans.
During his deployment, though he was a driver of Public Affairs Major, he felt frustrated as the Major was so critical and did not appreciate his work. Moreover, Johnson saw a burned body of a girl, which traumatized him because he had not experienced such incident.
Returning back home, Johnson saw the ugly devastation of Hurricane Katrina that left him uneasy during his leave at New Orleans. Despite the trauma, Johnson had resilience factors; given that combat counselor helped him to cope with traumatic experiences during deployment, when he came back home, he underwent integration process at Fort Hood.
Comparative analysis of the two case studies shows that Johnson has greater risk of developing posttraumatic stress disorder than Ramirez because he experienced more risk factors as compared to resilience factors during pre-deployment, deployment, and post-deployment.
King, Vogt, Knight, and Samper (2007) assert that, posttraumatic stress disorder occurs due to cumulative traumatic experiences of life (p.95).
While Ramirez did not experience traumatic incidences in pre-deployment given that, his parents had divorced. Moreover, Hurricane Katrina displaced Johnson and his neighbors from New Orleans, which remained an ugly experience that haunted his life, even after deployment.
Thus, more risk factors than resilience factors that Johnson experienced made him uneasy during his leave; hence, he was predisposed to posttraumatic stress disorder.
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Inventory: A Collection of Measures for Studying Deployment-Related Experiences of Military Personnel and Veterans. Military Psychology, 18(2), 89-120.
Philips, C., LeardMan, C., Gumbs, G., & Smith, B. (2010). Risk Factors for
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder among Deployed United States Male Marines. BioMed Central Psychiatry, 1-12.
Vogt, D., & Tanner, L. (2007). Risk and Resilience Factors for Posttraumatic Stress Symptomology in Gulf War I Veterans. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 20(1), 27-38.