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K-State Today

November 9, 2011

Professor's work, committee meeting help support military families as troops leave Iraq

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

The United States military's intense presence in Iraq is drawing to a close, but the war's influence on military families will be long lasting, says a Kansas State University professor.

"These wars have lasted so long, they have affected family members dramatically," said Elaine Johannes, associate professor of family studies and human services, who works with military youth and families. "Now, it's not really accurate to say the wars are over, but the way we wage wars or get involved in war is changing."

The military configuration will also change with service members being redeployed back to the states, Johannes said. For example, these soldiers are still in the military system and will be engaged in training for the next round of deployments, which may be a shorter period of time -- perhaps nine to 12 months.

"Even though military members may be in dwell time longer, issues of stress and family concern do not disappear," said Johannes, who primarily works with Army families and support networks. "Having a service member abroad for a shorter period of time, there are certain issues that arise from that when they are back in the community and with their family."

Shorter deployments, for example, may mean more frequent deployments over a service member's career and the potential for more transition experienced by the members and their families.

With troops leaving Iraq, Johannes sees two needs among those who support military families. Professionals need to understand how to work with military families as service members return and they must learn to address differences surrounding shorter deployments. Similarly, communities must be motivated and inspired to support military families for the long haul.

"In all likelihood, there will be new deployments, but they may not be as public or well-known as the Iraq or Afghanistan war," Johannes said. "Our communities need to be helpful to military families when it's not the popular thing to do and when it's not in the media. Our service members deserve that support."

Johannes has been involved in several projects related to military families. A United States Department of Agriculture grant called Operation Military Kids creates community programs for military-connected youth. She is also involved in a 13-state initiative to train child care providers in curriculum relevant to in-home care of military children, even children as young as infants.

Johannes also co-teaches a graduate level course to prepare students to work in fields of military and to address the needs of the military.

"Kansas State University is a leader in helping service members who are leaving the service obtain an education and move into well-paid positions so they can take care of their households," Johannes said.

Kansas Inter-Service Family Assistance Committee

Johannes and Kansas State University are also involved with the Kansas Inter-Service Family Assistance Committee, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense and includes all of the military services in the state as well as military support systems.

The committee will meet from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 9, at the Kansas State University Alumni Center. The meeting will include discussions on areas of the community that support military families, including education, employment, reintegration, housing and family strength.

Members of the media are allowed to attend the event. For more information contact Johannes at 785-532-7720 or ejohanne@k-state.edu.