Continuous Transition – Guest blog

Nick Wood is Business Development Manager (Armed Forces and Uniformed Services) at York St John University, and delivers the course: The Military Human: Understanding Military Culture and Transition. In this blog, he writes about the future trend ‘Continuous Transition’.


People from all walks of life experience transition and adjustment at different times during their life such as changes in employment, moving home, promotion, or starting new relationships. Most would recognise that during these periods of transition and change a period of readjustment will need to elapse and that it should be expected. This period will differ between individuals and may be influenced by previous life and/or employment experiences.

The reasons and attractions for joining the Armed Forces play a significant role, such as family tradition, employment, trades and skills opportunities, desire to escape personal circumstances and purpose to name but a few. Traditionally, being in the Armed Forces is not viewed as a 9 to 5 occupation, but instead is a ‘lifestyle’ requiring potential deployment at any time, which can impact on families. This ‘lifestyle’ requires individuals to accept and embrace military core values, ethos, and to adopt a sense of teamwork and family based on personal investment in others.

In effect, the Armed Forces provides all the personal and pastoral needs an individual requires and populates Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs effectively. With most recruits joining up during their formative development years (e.g. 16 to 21), it also aligns to Erikson’s Psychosocial Model by creating an intense sense of identity and purpose. Military reference points are also very visual such as uniform and rank, thus providing clear hierarchical frameworks and structures. This creates a cultural ‘bubble’ described by many as ‘behind the wire’ or ‘on board ship’. Of course, this perceived ‘bubble’ cannot be maintained indefinitely with transition being inevitable for all those who serve. However, for many this lifestyle may be the only one experienced as a working age person prior to civilian employment, so the workplace ethic has been formed within the Armed Forces environment.

This personal investment and lifestyle experience does set the Armed Forces occupation apart from others, as most do not require such an intense personal investment by its employees as the high personal risk may not apply in the same way. There are exceptions, such as emergency services, prison, or security services. Interestingly these occupations appear to be attractive to service leavers suggesting that elements of military culture, identity and structure may be replicated within these organisations. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some veterans move from job to job before finding an occupation they ‘feel’ comfortable in. This may reflect how other organisations interpret their own core values and teamwork compared to military definitions.

Therefore, if being part of the Armed Forces requires an individual to embrace the military cultural lifestyle, transition preparation should include personal awareness around the inevitable effects of adjustment and transition for themselves and their families. A good example of this awareness raising is the British Army – Transition: The Emotional Pathway information sheet. However, even the leaflet itself recognises that there is ‘little information or advice about what Service leavers and their families might experience emotionally’. The recently launched MOD JSP 100 Holistic Transition Policy is resetting how transition is viewed and experienced with focus on the high value transferable skills service leavers possess.

Future transition planning: Transition adjustment awareness raising should become part of all service leavers and their families’ transition preparation. This may address the concerns many may have prior to leaving the Armed Forces and potentially ‘normalise’ some of the adjustment experience and reduce anxiety for others.

You can read about Continuous Transition and download the trend here.


How do you think continuous transition will affect the future of the Armed Forces? Share your thoughts in the comments below to help inform our final report. 


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