As Policy & Research Director Michelle leaves AFF after 10 years, she reflects on the importance of support for families during time apart…

Time apart is something that all army families experience – it comes in many different forms, from operational tours, training exercises and career courses to weekly commutes and dual serving families being deployed in different locations.

With the army’s current focus on readiness, periods of separation may be something that is more common than usual for readers. I recently wrote an article in The British Army Review which outlined the importance of families in contributing towards operational effectiveness and the impact on them of time spent apart during deployment.

Whilst there is formal welfare support available, we know that a significant responsibility is placed on spouses, partners and children to look after themselves and each other, in the absence of the deployed person.

This occurs within families but also across the broader military community, through the informal network in which military families look after each other, making a tangible but un-resourced, and sometimes unrecognised, contribution to military effectiveness.

AFF called for the army to ensure that families have access to the support they need, as and when they choose to access it. Some of the support on offer is outlined in this edition but we will continue to raise the point that the needs of families can vary, depending on their structure, location and unique pressures.

At AFF, we understand that separation has an impact on the family – including additional parenting and relationship pressures, social isolation and loneliness, as well as the effect on the partner’s employment. All issues I have experienced first-hand!

As I leave AFF after 10 years, I’ve seen the pressures change both personally and professionally from lengthy tours of Iraq and Afghanistan to the new longer overseas training exercises and readiness preparations. But regardless of the reasons, the tempo remains the same and the importance of recognising the contribution of army families and the need to support them is as key as ever.

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