Civil-Military Integration

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

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

Understanding & Appreciation


According to the Pew Research Center, less than 1% of the American public has served on active duty at any given time since 9/11, resulting in a decreased understanding between the military and the broader U.S. society (otherwise known as the “civilian-military divide”). This widening divide is especially prominent among America’s youth as many lack basic knowledge about military service, and what they think they know is often wrong.

Military Cultural Competency & Belonging


Belonging is important to the health and wellness of active-duty military and veteran families. “Belonging” connotes a subjective sense of membership, influence, shared emotional connections, integration, and the fulfillment of needs within a community. While many military families feel connected to institutions and networks within their communities, many 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 families who relocate frequently may not have the 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.


  • 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 that military service is a celebrated choice for graduates
  • Open installation recreational resources to local community members for events that bring non-military 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 and local 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 (MFLCC) 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 that future civilian and military policy-makers 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