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Peer Support Resources for Members of the National Guard, Reserve and Individual Augmentees

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. John Robbart III

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. John Robbart III

Members of the National Guard, reserve and individual augmentees are in unique positions. Members of the National Guard and reserve serve as citizen-warriors and often work full-time civilian jobs while still being a member of the armed forces. Individual augmentees may receive orders or volunteer to deploy individually with a command that is not their own.

Although these opportunities can be rewarding, it is common for these service members to face challenges during the periods before, during and after deployment. Seeking peer support can help service members cope with feelings of isolation during transition periods and build long-lasting relationships and friendships.1 This article outlines the importance of peer support and provides resources to help you find the peer support programs that are right for you.

The Importance of Peer Support

Peer support occurs when individuals share similar experiences and collaborate to create a trusting group or network that provides a forum for seeking help and sharing support resources.1 Peer support can facilitate social networking, promote wellness, improve coping skills and improve quality of life.1 There are a wide variety of peer support programs available for service members, including confidential one-on-one peer counseling as well as larger peer support groups with others. Through peer support, service members know they are not alone in coping with military life challenges.

Members of the National Guard, reserve and individual augmentees can face unique challenges. Members of the National Guard and reserve may reintegrate into civilian life with fewer support networks and social structures compared to their active-duty counterparts.2 For example, they may return as one of the few individuals in their neighborhood who has deployed. Family, friends, co-workers and neighbors may not understand the demands of military life, deployment challenges and the difficulty of transitioning back into the community.3 Individual augmentees may face similar challenges and feelings of isolation as they are going through the deployment cycle with a unit that is not their own.4 Peer support is a way for members of the National Guard, reserve and individual augmentees to find similarities with others, share experiences and seek help.

Reaching out for support is a sign of strength. If you are experiencing feelings of isolation or psychological health concerns, do not hesitate to seek the care you need to handle life's stressors. Finding peer support programs can greatly improve your ability to cope with challenges and even improve your relationships with family and friends.1

Defense Department Peer Support Resources

There may be peer-to-peer programs and other small group sessions available through your unit. Discover available programs by reaching out to your commanding officer or nearest military installation for more information.1 To find the closest installation to your home and program contacts, search for your zipcode in the MilitaryINSTALLATIONS database. Contact the installation to learn about the specific programs they can offer you. Peer support programs and resources vary by location, but often include:

Peer Support Resources in Your Community

Many community-based organizations also provide peer support resources for the military community. You can find peer support groups through non-profits, faith-based organizations and other local resources. For example:

  • The American Red Cross provides a variety of resources including counseling, guidance and referral services to all service members and their families. For more information, read the Real Warriors Campaign article, Knowing What the Red Cross Can Do For You, visit their website or call 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
  • The Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors provides peer support, crisis intervention, case work, and trauma resources to all who are grieving. If you have experienced a loss of a service member, friend or loved one, visit their website or call 1-800-959-TAPS (1-800-959-8277).

Additionally, there are a wide variety of organizations that connect service members to peer-to-peer programs across the country. Use the resource finders listed below to discover both local and national community-based peer support programs:

  • Make The Connection has a section just for members of the National Guard and reserve to connect with support resources and help manage military life challenges. If you are an individual augmentee, visit their Active Duty section for support resources.
  • The National Resource Directory is an online tool connects all service members and their families to nearly 14,000 services and resources at the national, state/territory and local levels that support recovery, rehabilitation and community reintegration.

Stay Connected With Virtual Peer Support Resources

Using social media resources like Facebook and Twitter is a great way to stay connected with your peers during transitions. In addition, there are many virtual peer support communities and forums in which you can talk with fellow service members, share your experiences and coping tips and direct each other toward additional peer support resources. Connect with fellow warriors on the Active Duty and the National Guard and Reserve Real Warriors Campaign message boards.

Peer support is especially important for members of the National Guard, reserve and individual augmentees. Use the resources in this article to help you face the unique challenges of military life by building resilience through long-lasting friendships and relationships.

Additional Resources

Sources

1 Dr. Nisha Money and others. Best Practices Identified for Peer Support Programs, [PDF1.15MB] Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury. Published January 2011.

2 Brim, William. Who is watching a Guard member's mental health? Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury. Published July 28, 2010.

3 Returning to Work, Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve. Last accessed Nov. 24, 2015.

4 Reed, Kathy. Individual Augmentees help other forces Whidbey Crosswind. Last Accessed Nov. 24, 2015.

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