Coping with Transitions: The Case of Combat Reserve Forces

  • Liore Lander
  • Ephrat Huss
  • Ayelet Harel-ShalevEmail author
Original Paper


Reserve duty is described as cyclical, ambivalent, and complex and as involving traumatic elements in all militaries. However, to our knowledge, little has been written about how the soldiers themselves phenomenologically define the experience within specific social contexts. Israel has mandatory military service for all citizens, many of whom continue to serve in the reserves. Given the ongoing conflicts in the region, combat reservists are often called upon to serve. Our aim in this paper is to investigate these soldiers’ transitions from their call up to their engagement in battle, and finally, to their return home. Our methods will be to use the narratives of twelve such soldiers. The central themes describe a deep conflict between collective versus individual cultural narratives that create dilemmas and stress at each of these stages of transition. The narrative framework and culturally contextualized, rather than trauma-related, focus of the findings shed new light on combat soldiers, self-defined stressors, and their relationship to specific socio-cultural contexts.


Transitions in the military IDF Reserve forces Combat soldiers Israel Military Combat 



  1. Ackerman, R., DiRamio, D., & Mitchell, R. L. G. (2009). Transitions: Combat veterans as college students. New Directions for Student Services, 126, 5–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders DSM-5 ®. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association Publishing.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bar-Tal, D., & Colonimus, N. (2011). The perception of Israeli Arab Conflict amongst Israeli elite unit soldiers. The Public Sphere, 5, 25–38 (in Hebrew).Google Scholar
  4. Ben Horin, Y. (2009). Tested leadership: Commanders in mandatory service commanding over reservist units. Publishing House of Israeli Defense Force, 394, 420–421.Google Scholar
  5. Ben-Ari, E., Lomsky-Feder, E., & Gazit, N. (2004). Between the military and civilian spheres. Publishing House of Israeli Defense Force, 394, 87–95.Google Scholar
  6. Blaich, A., & Melamed, Y. (2007). Post-traumatic stress disorder due to military service. Medicine and Law, 37, 168–182.Google Scholar
  7. Bulmer, S., & Eichler, M. (2017). Unmaking militarized masculinity: Veterans and the project of military-to-civilian transition. Critical Military Studies, 3(2), 161–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bulmer, S., & Jackson, D. (2016). “You do not live in my skin”: Embodiment, voice, and the veteran. Critical Military Studies, 2(1–2), 25–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Caddick, N. (2018). Life, embodiment, and (post-) war stories: Studying narrative in critical military studies. Critical Military Studies. Scholar
  10. Caddick, N., Smith, B., & Phoenix, C. (2015). Male combat veterans’ narratives of PTSD, masculinity, and health. Sociology of Health & Illness, 37(1), 97–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Chisholm, A., & Tidy, J. (2017). Beyond the hegemonic in the study of militaries, masculinities, and war. Critical Military Studies, 3(2), 99–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cohen, N., & Arieli, T. (2011). Field research in conflict environments. Journal of Peace Research, 48(4), 423–435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Daphna-Tekoah, S., & Harel-Shalev, A. (2017). Beyond binaries: Analyzing violent state actors in critical studies. Critical Studies on Terrorism, 10(2), 253–273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Demers, A. (2011). When veterans return: The role of community in reintegration. Journal of Loss and Trauma, 16(2), 160–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Edmunds, T., Dawes, A., Higate, P., Jenkings, K. N., & Woodward, R. (2016). Reserve forces and the transformation of British military organization. Defense Studies, 16(2), 118–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Eftekhari, A., Ruzek, J. I., Crowley, J. J., et al. (2013). Effectiveness of national implementation of prolonged exposure therapy in Veterans Affairs care. JAMA Psychiatry, 70(9), 949–955.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Faber, A. J., Willerton, E., Clymer, S. R., MacDermid, S. M., & Weiss, H. M. (2008). Ambiguous absence, ambiguous presence: A qualitative study of military reserve families in wartime. Journal of Family Psychology, 22(2), 222–230.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gade, P. A. (1991). Military service and the life-course perspective: A turning point for military personnel research. Military Psychology, 3(4), 187–199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gilligan, C. (2015). The listening guide method of psychological enquiry. Qualitative Psychology, 2(1), 69–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Griffith, J. (2011). Decades of transition for the US reserves: Changing demands on reserve identity and mental well-being. International Review of Psychiatry, 23(2), 181–191.PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  21. Grossman, G., Manekin, D., & Miodownik, D. (2015). The political legacies of combat. International Organization, 69(4), 981–1009.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Harel-Shalev, A., & Daphna-Tekoah, S. (2016). The “Double-Battle”. Critical Studies on Terrorism, 9(2), 312–333.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Harel-Shalev, A., Huss, E., Daphna-Tekoah, S., & Cwikel, J. (2017). Drawing on women’s military experiences and narratives. Gender, Place and Culture, 24(4), 499–514.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Harpaz-Rotem, I., & Rosenheck, R. A. (2011). Serving those who served: Retention of newly returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan in mental health treatment. Psychiatric Services, 62(1), 22–27.PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  25. Hayman, A. (2004). Reservist alignment, Israeli Defense Force, and the Israeli society. Publishing House of Israeli Defense Force, 394, 4–13.Google Scholar
  26. Hendel, Y. (2008). Return of reservist formation. Strategic Newsletter, 10, 4–17.Google Scholar
  27. Hoge, C. W., & Castro, C. A. (2012). Preventing suicides in US service members and veterans: Concerns after a decade of war. JAMA, 308(7), 671–672.PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  28. Huberman, M., & Miles, M. B. (2002). The qualitative researcher’s companion. London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Huss, E. (2015). A theory-based approach to art therapy: Implications for teaching, research and practice. New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hynes, R. (2015). Army civilians and the army profession. Military Review, 95(3), 71–77.Google Scholar
  31. Kriesberg, L. (2000). Negotiating the partition of Palestine and evolving Israeli–Palestinian relations. The Brown Journal of World Affairs, 7(1), 63–80.Google Scholar
  32. Lester, P., Mogil, C., Saltzman, W., Woodward, K., Nash, W., Leskin, G., et al. (2011). Families overcoming under stress: Implementing family-centered prevention for military families facing wartime deployments and combat operational stress. Military Medicine, 176(1), 19–25.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Levy, Y. (2011). The decline of the reserve army. Israeli National Security Research Institution. Military and Strategy, 3, 3.Google Scholar
  34. Lincoln, Y. S., & Denzin, N. K. (2003). Turning points in qualitative research: Tying knots in a handkerchief. New York: AltaMira Press.Google Scholar
  35. Lissak, M., & Horowitz, D. (1989). Disturbed utopia: Israeli society in overload: Democracy and national security in ongoing conflict. Tel Aviv: Am-Oved (in Hebrew).Google Scholar
  36. Lomsky-Feder, E., Gazit, N., & Ben-Ari, E. (2008). Reserve soldiers as transmigrants: Moving between the civilian and military worlds. Armed Forces & Society, 34(4), 593–614.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Manekin, D. (2017). The limits of socialization and the underproduction of military violence: Evidence from the IDF. Journal of Peace Research, 54(5), 606–619.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Milgram, N. A., Orenstein, R., & Zafrir, E. (1989). Stressors, personal resources, and social supports in military performance during wartime. Military Psychology, 1(4), 185–199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Nevo, B., & Shor, Y. (2002). All the nation, military? Reserve service in Israel. Military and Society Project: Third gathering. Jerusalem: Israeli Democracy Institute (in Hebrew).Google Scholar
  40. Rose, S., VanDenKerkhof, E., & Schaub, M. (2018). Determinants of successful transition literature review. Journal of Military, Veteran and Family Health, 4(1), 90–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Tamari, D. (2012). Armed nation: Rise and downfall of the Israeli reserve phenomenon. Ben-Shemen: Modan (in Hebrew).Google Scholar
  42. Ursano, R. J., Bell, C., Eth, S., et al. (2004). Practice guideline for the treatment of patients with acute stress disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry, 161(suppl 11), 3–31.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  43. Walker, W. E. (1992). Comparing army reserve forces: A tale of multiple ironies, conflicting realities, and more certain prospects. Armed Forces & Society, 18(3), 303–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Wheeler, D. P., & Bragin, M. (2007). Bringing it all back home: Social work and the challenge of returning veterans. Health and Social Work, 32(4), 297–300.PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Israel Trauma and Resilience CenterTel AvivIsrael
  2. 2.Herzog Hospital Psychotrauma CenterJerusalemIsrael
  3. 3.Spitzer Department of Social WorkBen-Gurion University of the NegevBeer-ShevaIsrael
  4. 4.Conflict Management and Resolution Program and the Department of Politics and Government, Faculty of Humanities and Social SciencesBen-Gurion University of the NegevBeer-ShevaIsrael

Personalised recommendations