FORT BENNING, Ga. - An Army wife who recently moved here as part of the Armor School arrival wants to bring more attention to spouse educational opportunities and hurdles.

Alicia Hayes, an online adjunct professor of education for Park University, completed a quantitative study last year on the educational needs of Army spouses during deployment and nondeployment cycles. The research began in January 2010 and was completed in December as the dissertation for her doctorate program in post-secondary and adult education.

She said it identifies the specific needs and barriers to education during the two phases and encourages military organizations to adapt policies and programs to address those areas.

"I wanted to focus on something that was important to me ... as well as to use this as a change agent to help bring awareness to a need related to a specific population and education," she said. "The Army has such great programs, but no matter how great things are, there is always room for improvement. The Army life is not easy, and I was hoping to identify the specific needs and barriers so that there is data to support changes in policy.

"Army spouses sacrifice much during deployments, and to a lesser extent, during nondeployment. I wanted this research to help provide data and avenues so that these spouses did not have to also sacrifice their educational goals."

Hayes was inspired by firsthand experience. As the spouse of Lt. Col. Edward Hayes, the 316th Cavalry Brigade's executive officer, she said she's had to balance family life with her own professional ambitions while dealing with deployments and other challenges. The couple have two young children, ages 6 and 3.

She said research had been conducted on military spouses and education related to employment needs, but there was little out there that focused on whether these requirements change during deployment and nondeployment rotations, and what they desired to make education more of a reality.

Hayes believes her study reinforces the collaborative process necessary between spouse educational needs and barriers and the operations of post services.

"I am hopeful it leads to larger studies in the long term, but most importantly, I hope that the identified educational needs and barriers lead to changes in policy in how child care programs and hours are established and run," she said. "I'd also like to see an increase in funding for the MyCAA (Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts) program or development of a new program to offer financial assistance to spouses who are seeking graduate or higher degrees.

"I also hope the research brings awareness and that further research and considerations are given to how current programs operate."

Fort Benning's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness drive is a command priority aimed at keeping Soldiers, civilians and their families healthy in mind, body and spirit. Brigade health promotion teams are forming while installation organizations work closely to ensure post programs and services meet everyone's needs and promote total fitness.

Various CSF resources are available at www.benning.army.mil.


RESEARCH STUDY ON MILITARY SPOUSES

Military spouse Alicia Hayes conducted a quantitative research study in 2010 titled "The Army spouse: Perceptions of educational needs during deployment and nondeployment cycles."

She asked Army spouses from three brigades - one deployed, one returning from a deployment and one preparing for deployment - to respond via an online questionnaire. They were asked questions using both deployment and nondeployment perspectives to gain data supporting and negating assumptions about the two.

Most spouses who participated in the study were older than 25, had two children living in the household and had earned a bachelor's degree. The majority desired graduate or advanced degrees, but few were actually enrolled in a graduate program.

The greatest barrier during a deployment is the lack of child-care assistance and the majority of respondents indicated they'd like the Army to provide more on post during class hours - whether in the daytime or evening, according to Hayes' research. Conversely, the study also found that these spouses require additional financial aid during nondeployment.

"This indicates there is a need for financial assistance for spouses who desire to enroll in educational and graduate programs," she said. "The study also identified that during deployment and non-deployment, most spouses receive information about education services and programs from their (family readiness groups)."

The study's results show that most spouses desire education to fulfill a professional need, obtain a job or compete in the workplace regardless of where they live. Hayes said this supports previous findings by the Rand Corporation and National Military Family Association that fewer pursue education for personal reasons, such as making friends, having a social outlet or simply attending class for the love of learning.

The data further indicates most Army spouses have similar perspectives about their educational needs and goals during deployment and nondeployment.

In Hayes' study, the two situations did not significantly affect respondents' educational goals, their beliefs regarding the overall effect of their spouse's military career on their education, the respondents' awareness of military-sponsored education-assistance programs, how they learned about these programs, which programs they used and how often, or their degree of satisfaction with these programs. However, there were significant differences between deployment and nondeployment with respect to respondents' educational needs, the perceived barriers to reaching those academic goals, the ways in which their spouse's military career impacted their educational attainment and the form of assistance they most desired.

As prior research lacked a focus on the deployment and nondeployment variables, this data may be important to various Department of Defense programs that serve Army spouses as well as DoD policy, Hayes said. It also may be important to the colleges, universities and instructors of Army spouses as it has been shown the spouse of a deployed Soldier has differing needs for education than those of a spouse with a nondeployed husband or wife.

- Vince Little

Page last updated Thu May 12th, 2011 at 14:18