DCoE Blog

  • How to Support Women Who Serve, Their Mental Health: Tips for Providers
    Female soldier crawling under barbed wire.
    U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Aaron Ellerma

    Women represent about 16 percent of our active-duty military force. As they continue to serve, it’s critical that clinicians are equipped to treat their psychological health concerns.

    Deputy Director Dr. Kate McGraw of the Deployment Health Clinical Center has spent more than three decades working for the military. Much of her work has been dedicated to the psychological differences and needs of women in the military.

  • Alcohol Use, PTSD among Combat Servicewomen
    woman in battle dress fatigues briefing service men and women
    U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Amy M. Ressler

    Women didn’t officially serve in ground combat positions until 2013. However, many of them did their jobs in real-time combat settings, often under direct fire. Despite this, research on how deployment affects women is limited. Scientists discussed the need for more research and other post-deployment concerns that affect female service members during a webinar hosted by the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury.

    Where’s the Data?

    Almost half of female service members eligible for care through the Defense Health Agency do not use it. This lack of use makes it harder to gather data on their post-combat experiences. Also, most of the post-deployment studies on PTSD and substance use disorder occurred before women openly served in combat. This means most deployment-related studies do not accurately reflect the experiences of women.

  • Experts Explore How Combat Roles May Affect Women’s Psychological Health
    DCoE photo by Terry Welch

    The military is a lot different for women today than it was 20 years ago. More women serve and they serve in many new roles, including combat. Exploring the challenges women service member’s may face, and how those challenges may affect their psychological health, was the focus of a panel discussion during the 2016 Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury Summit.

    Expanded Roles for Women in the Military

    The history of our nation’s military isn’t complete without women. Since the Revolutionary War women cared for the wounded and supported a variety of military operations.

    The number of female service members started to climb in 1994 when the direct ground combat definition and assignment rule went into effect, said Dr. Tracey Koehlmoos, health services administration division director at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. This definition and rule allowed women to fill more military occupations as long as they weren’t in direct combat.

  • Taking Time Off Enabled My TBI Recovery

    On May 5, 2005, I was riding my bicycle to work at Marine Corps Base Hawaii when I was hit head-on by a careless driver. If I hadn’t been wearing a helmet, I likely would have died instantly or at least been left with extremely severe brain damage. Even with a helmet, I was still knocked unconscious and experienced a TBI. After a few days in intensive care, I was sent home under the 24-hour supervision of my mother, a registered nurse, and my fiancé, a Marine and former emergency medical technician.

    The doctors said that for a while all I was allowed to do was sleep, read or watch TV. I don’t remember much of the first couple weeks out of the hospital because I slept a lot – 12 to 16 hours a day. That’s common after a head injury, and it was all I wanted to do.

  • Marine Cyclist Recovers by ‘Following Doctor’s Advice’

    In honor of Brain Injury Awareness Month, we are featuring the stories of people who sustained brain injuries and recovered. In this post from A Head for the Future, Maj. Eve Baker was injured when a car hit her while biking to work. A video about Eve Baker’s brain injury experience is available on YouTube.

    In 2005, a car struck Marine reservist Maj. Eve Baker head-on while she was biking to work in Honolulu. She flew face-first into the windshield, shattering her helmet — which likely saved her life. Eve was immediately taken to the hospital and spent three days in intensive care.

  • Clinician’s Corner: Journal Highlights Health Needs of Women in Combat
    Military Medicine - Women in Combat supplement to volume 181 number 1

    We are living in a time of great change. Change offers us many opportunities for positive growth. At the same time, change may create unanswerable questions, generate heated discussions or even produce anxiety in those impacted most by the change.

    Military Integration Changes

    The Defense Department has seen a number of significant changes related to structure and mission. Notably, in 2013, the secretary of defense rescinded the 1994 Direct Combat Definition and Assignment Rule, which had previously closed many combat-related military occupational specialties to female service members. This decision raised questions about the best ways to integrate women into these positions and focused attention on the physical and psychological health needs of all military females.

    In the spring of 2014, the Consortium for Health and Military Performance (CHAMP) and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs hosted the Women in Combat Symposium. More than 90 policy makers, researchers and service members from across the Defense Department examined women-in-combat issues related to fitness and health, operational, environmental, community and cultural factors. DCoE helped shape the symposium’s content and dialogue. My colleagues and I facilitated group discussions about the psychological health needs, resilience, and overall well-being of women in combat positions.