Civil-Military Integration

The civil-military divide has implications not only for recruitment and readiness, but also for military and Veteran families’ sense of belonging to their local communities.

Blue Star Families is committed to fostering civil-military integration and promoting military cultural competency in communities.

Understanding and Appreciation

Too few people know what it is like to wait for your spouse to return home after months apart, to frequently uproot to unfamiliar communities with no friends or family nearby, and to endure many other challenges associated with military and Veteran life. It is no wonder why the civil-military divide is wide, and many military members believe that those not serving in uniform have no understanding of the military service experience or the sacrifices they make. Together, we can increase understanding and appreciation among our civilian communities.

Military Cultural Competency and Belonging

Belonging—a subjective sense of membership, influence, shared emotional connections, integration, and the fulfillment of needs within a community—is important to the health and wellness of active-duty military and Veteran families.

While many feel connected to institutions and networks within their communities, a number of military and Veteran families still do not feel they belong in them. Feeling deprived of belonging can lead to severe depression and mental distress, while a sense of belonging is associated with the ability to cope with military life stress.

Our surveys have shown that belonging to the local civilian community increases over time, but military-connected families who relocate frequently may not have time to establish that belonging before another relocation. Furthermore, perceptions of civilians’ military family lifestyle cultural competency (MFLCC) significantly and positively correlate with a sense of belonging to the community among both military and Veteran family respondents.

Policy Recommendations

  • Maximize interactions between installations and local communities
  • Evaluate installation commanders on their effectiveness in collaborating with local civilian leaders to promote civil-military engagement
  • Improve installation engagement with local high schools to ensure military service is a celebrated choice for graduates
  • Open installation recreational resources to local community members for events that bring non-military members onto base/post
  • “Wave the flag” via active-duty and retiree participation in local military affinity groups, clubs, and organizations
  • Establish joint governmental use facilities and joint zones where military, Veteran, and community members can take advantage of social programs and services together, to avoid duplication of services and foster civil-military integration
  • Support DoD programming aimed at fostering military family lifestyle cultural competency in local civilian communities
  • Encourage colleges and employers to accept a version of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Test (ASVAT) for qualifications
  • Encourage civilians to enroll in ROTC courses on civilian campuses that have ROTC programs
  • Formalize relationships and synchronize classes between ROTC programs and public policy schools/departments, so future civilian and military policymakers develop relationships early on
  • Support grants to local municipalities to create military family sections on their websites and establish a military community member liaison staff position