Much research has focused on stress related to deployments; however, a substantial proportion of soldiers never deploy. In a study of 1.3 million veterans, suicide risk was higher among veterans who had never deployed. Thus, not being deployed may have an impact on soldiers’ well-being; however, no measures exist to assess emotions regarding non-deployment. We aimed to develop and test an original measure of non-deployment emotions.
We examined the Non-Deployment Emotions (NDE) questionnaire, a novel four-item measure of guilt, unit value, unit camaraderie, and unit connectedness in a sample of never-deployed male and female US Army Reserve/National Guard (USAR/NG) soldiers (N = 174). Data are from Operation: SAFETY (Soldiers and Families Excelling Through the Years), an ongoing survey-based study examining the health of USAR/NG soldiers and their partners. The protocol was approved by the Institutional Review Board at the State University of New York at Buffalo. The relationship between each of the items was examined by calculating correlation and alpha coefficients. Latent class analyses tested for the existence of distinct levels of negative emotions related to non-deployment. Negative binomial regression models examined the cross-sectional associations between NDE summary score and each of the following outcomes, separately: anger, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress.
More than half of never-deployed USAR/NG soldiers expressed negative emotions for having not been deployed. “Guilt,” “value,” “camaraderie,” and “connectedness” were each positively correlated with each other (p < 0.001) and the internal consistency reliability was high (male soldier α = 0.90, female soldier α = 0.93). Latent class analyses revealed a superior three-class model with well-delineated class membership (entropy = 0.93): “Class 1” (low NDE; 47.6%), “Class 2” (moderate NDE; 33.8%), and “Class 3” (high NDE; 18.6%). Regression models demonstrated that greater non-deployment emotions were independently associated with more severe anger (RR = 1.02, 95% CI: 1.01, 1.03, p < 0.001), anxiety (RR = 1.06, 95% CI: 1.01, 1.11, p < 0.05), depression (RR = 1.06, 95% CI: 1.01, 1.11, p < 0.05), and PTSD (RR = 1.10, 95% CI: 1.04, 1.16, p < 0.01).
Findings demonstrate that negative emotions regarding non-deployment are prevalent among never-deployed USAR/NG soldiers and that these emotions are related to a mental health. The NDE provides a measure of “guilt,” “value,” “camaraderie,” and “connectedness” specific to non-deployed soldiers and is able to well discriminate between soldiers that have low, moderately, and highly negative non-deployment emotions. These findings suggest that all military personnel, regardless of deployment status, could be at risk for negative outcomes. As with any survey-based study, there is a potential for response bias; however, given the range of responses collected with the NDE, social desirability is unlikely. Further work is needed to confirm our findings in other components of the military and to examine soldiers in the rear detachment.