Being at war: Norwegian Afghanistan veterans’ experiences of military service and their coping strategies related to deployment, combat and stressful situations.
AuthorRibe, Jørgen Jensen
Background: The Norwegian military contribution to Afghanistan has resulted in thousands of soldiers being deployed. Several studies have been conducted to investigate the factors that contribute to the development of mental health problems. Isolating and describing why, and in which setting these potential stressors produce adverse health effects are challenging. It may be dependent on how the individual subjectively perceives the situation. More knowledge about this process might be of use in identifying which events are more likely to have adverse effects on mental health. The aim of the study was to gain insight into the mind frame and coping mechanisms used by Norwegian Afghanistan veterans. Looking at how the soldiers regarded deployment to a warzone and experienced combat. Analysis of the data attempted to describe how they responded to combat situations. Method: Qualitative interviews using thematic analysis were applied to interpret the data. Five semi-structured interviews were conducted. The participants are former soldiers with an average at 8,8 years of service. Each participant had either three or four deployments to Afghanistan. Results: Analysis identified four main themes. Theme 1 (Subjective perception on deployment) explores how the participants view being deployed. Theme 2 (The first firefight) and theme 3 (The death of a colleague) explore how the soldiers perceive and react in the situations implied by the theme. Theme 4 (No plan survives the confrontation with reality) looks at severe situations where things can go wrong. Conclusion: The participants in the study had a positive mind frame towards deployment to Afghanistan. Combat situations were framed as both positive and negative. The findings suggest that the ability to personally and effectively intervene is regarded as an important criterion for how the participants view success, regardless of personal risk or outcome of a combat situation. This study further suggests that coping strategies in the military unit can be a cooperative project. It is indicated that non-danger-based events may be perceived as more traumatic than danger-based events while they are unfolding.
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PublisherUiT Norges arktiske universitet
UiT The Arctic University of Norway
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