Members of the National Guard, Reserve and individual augmentees are in unique positions. These citizen-warriors 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.
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.
While all service members and families can benefit from peer support, it can be an especially helpful tool for members of the National Guard and Reserve, who may reintegrate into civilian life with fewer support networks and social structures compared to their active-duty counterparts. 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. 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.
Peer support offers a way for members of the National Guard, Reserve and individual augmentees to find similarities with others, share experiences and identify helpful resources. It can facilitate social networking, promote wellness, improve coping skills and improve quality of life. Through peer support, service members know they are not alone in coping with military life challenges. Connecting with a peer support network can greatly improve a service member’s ability to cope with challenges and even improve relationships with family and friends.
Defense Department Peer Support Resources
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. 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. To find the closest installation to your home and program contacts, search 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:
- The National Guard Bureau Joint Service Support. Now a part of Military OneSource, this initiative provides a number of peer support resources, including:
- Family Readiness Groups. Find a local family readiness group or other family program through the following service-specific resources:
Peer support is also available by phone through Military OneSource. Their Peer-to-Peer Specialty Consultations provide free and confidential support from trained peer consultants who have firsthand life experience as service members or military spouses. Peer consultants are available to talk, listen and offer support for a variety of military life challenges including deployments, career aspirations, transitions and more. To request a peer-to-peer specialty consultations, call 800-342-9647.
Additional Peer Support Resources
There are several resources that can connect service members to local and national peer-to-peer programs, including:
- Make the Connection. This Department of Veterans Affairs resource has a section just for members of the National Guard and Reserve to connect them with support resources to help manage military life challenges. Individual augmentees can visit their “Active Duty” section for support resources as well.
- The National Resource Directory. This 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.
Many community organizations, such as non-profits and faith-based organizations, also provide peer support resources for the military.
Reaching Out is a Sign of Strength
For free 24/7 assistance locating resources in your community, call the Psychological Health Resource Center at 866-966-1020 or chat online using Real Warriors Live Chat.
If you are experiencing feelings of isolation or are in crisis, reach out to the Military Crisis Line:
- In the U.S., call 800-273-8255 (Press 1). In Europe, call 00800 1273 8255 or DSN 118. In Korea, call 0808 555 118 or DSN 118. In Afghanistan, call 00 1 800 273 8255 or DSN 111
- Chat online (available CONUS and OCONUS)
- Text 838255 (CONUS only)
- inTransition Program
- Air Force Individual Reservist Readiness and Integration Organization
- Army Individual Mobilization Augmentee Website
- Navy Individual Augmentee Website
- Marine Corps Individual Mobilization Augmentee Website
- Navigating VA Benefits for National Guard and Reserve
- Tips for National Guard and Reserve Members to Manage Stress
- 7 Tools to Keep National Guard and Reserve Members Mission Ready
Dr. Nisha Money and others. “Best Practices Identified for Peer Support Programs.” Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury. Published January 2011.
Reed, Kathy. “Individual Augmentees help other forces.” Whidbey Crosswind. Last Accessed Nov. 13, 2019.