Congressional Briefing - March 9, 2009

Deployment Experiences of Guard and Reserve Families: Implications for Support and Retention

woman overwhelmed by finances


Margaret Harrell and Laura Castaneda


Monday, March 9, 2009


1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.


2200 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C.

About the Program

Well over half a million reserve component personnel have been deployed in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, and these guardsmen and reservists represent almost 30 percent of all deployments. While this increased reliance on reserve component personnel may put immense strain on their families, previous research on how deployments affect military families has almost exclusively focused on the Active Component. Given differences in their demographics and proximity to military resources, however, lessons learned from studying active component families may not apply to reserve component families. Accordingly, the recently released Deployment Experiences of Guard and Reserve Families examines a critical segment of our U.S. armed forces on which little information was previously available. The research team conducted and analyzed more than 600 interviews with reserve component personnel and spouses to obtain a better understanding of their deployment experiences and to assess their implications. These interviews covered many aspects of deployment, including:

  • family readiness
  • problems and positives stemming from deployment
  • family coping
  • resources families turned to for support.

Additional study findings indicate a relationship between many deployment aspects and military career plans, which may have repercussions for Reserve Component effectiveness. Given the potential impact of these families’ deployment experiences, the study offers recommendations related to military personnel practices, families’ perceptions and expectations, and family support.

About the Speakers

Margaret Harrell is a senior social scientist at RAND, and the associate director of the Forces and Resources Policy Center in the RAND National Defense Research Institute. Harrell’s research interests include military manpower and personnel, gender and race issues in the military, military families, and military quality of life. She is currently leading or has recently led projects addressing how best to support reserve component families; the management and assignment of reserve and active component general and flag officers; the assignment policy for military women; joint officer management; future officer career management; and the retention of special operations forces. Harrell is a RAND expert in quantitative system dynamics simulation modeling and also in qualitative research methods, to include conducting interviews and focus groups, and coding and analyzing the resulting data. Her publications include approximately forty monographs, book chapters, and journal articles. She received her Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from the University of Virginia, her M.S. in systems analysis from The George Washington University, and her B.A., with distinction, from University of Virginia.

Laura Castaneda is a management scientist at RAND. Castaneda applies organizational theories and methods to a wide array of policy issues, including arts education, health promotion efforts, workforce management, military manpower and personnel, and military families. Her ongoing projects include emergency preparedness in communities with a military presence, the role of urban congregations in HIV/AIDS health promotion efforts, and law enforcement recruiting in urban communities. She is currently leading or has recently led projects on the retention of Special Operations Forces; supporting guard and reserve families; and barriers to promotion for minorities. Castaneda is also a faculty member at the Pardee RAND Graduate School, where she teaches a course on group processes in organizations. She received her Ph.D. in organizational behavior from Stanford University and her B.S. in economics, cum laude, from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

RAND Office of Congressional Relations

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Further Inquiries

For further information about this event, contact the Office of Congressional Relations at or call (703) 413-1100 x5395.