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Military REACH Highlights

James Duncan, PhD – Military REACH content expert
17 April 2020
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Military REACH Research Associate
Dr. James Duncan is an instructor in the School of Human Environmental Sciences at the University of Arkansas, the president for the Southeastern Council on Family Relations, an Air Force veteran, and has been a content expert with Military REACH for over a year. Dr. Duncan uniquely offers both research expertise and real-life experience to the work of Military REACH. He primarily works on TRIP reports as an editor, but we have recently enjoyed some of his non-academic writing in a family article titled “Life after deployment” where Dr. Duncan beautifully shares his story of reintegration and effortlessly connects it to military family research. To learn more about James’ military experience and time at Military REACH, check out our conversation below.

1. What motivated you to join the Air Force and how long did you serve?

I was motivated to join the military because I felt it could give me a reliable environment to live in and learn to be independent (steady paycheck, education, etc.). In fact, I had to have my mother also sign the entry paperwork because I was only 17 and not a legal adult. Essentially, I grew up in a single parent household and was the oldest of three siblings. Growing up, I spent most of my time helping take care of my siblings while my mother worked. Joining the military allowed me to still help others, like I helped my own family members, but also gave me a chance to be on my own and become autonomous.

I served on active duty for 6 years.

2. How many times did you deploy, and what were your responsibilities as a Lead Convoy Commander?

I deployed to Iraq twice. The first time, when I was 18, I helped with basic security operations of convoys that moved supplies, mainly handling armor, weapon, and ammo readiness for truck gunners that guarded supply vehicles as they traveled from base to base. Then when I was 21, I was a staff sergeant (non-commissioned officer, E-5) who served as a lead vehicle convoy commander. LVCC responsibilities included serving as the navigator for convoys by being in the lead vehicle (first vehicle in the line of 20-30 vehicles), reviewing travel routes and making adjustments to travel routes based on security issues both before and during actual travel throughout Iraq, spotlight searching routes while driving for identification of possible improvised explosive devices, leading safety maneuver briefings so other vehicle operators could be prepared to respond to combat situations while driving, and once on a forward operating base helping to manage logistics of routing the convoys to supply drop off and pick up locations, vehicle refueling points, and vehicle parking.

3. What motivated you to get your PhD?

I was motivated to get my PhD because I believed I still had a lot of learning to do regarding individual and family functioning and well-being. I knew that I would be able to direct that learning specifically toward military families because graduate school tends to let you narrow down and specialize topics of interest. I felt that a PhD would help me learn from other professionals about important military and veteran issues so that I could help others and be able to confidently tell them that resources I am providing are based not only on my own experience as a veteran but also on credible research from other sources.

4. What drew you to Military REACH?

What drew me to Military REACH was specifically one of its driving concepts. That is to take important information on research and resources and translate it in a way that makes it accessible to everyone regardless of their educational background. I feel like for myself and other veterans and military families that we know research and resources may exist to help us, but sometimes we do not know where to locate them. Military REACH provides an easily accessible way to locate valuable information and tries to make sure that you can not only access it but understand it as well so that you can make use of it.

5. What has been your favorite part of working with Military REACH?

team members have military family affiliations, some do not, but all team members have shown strong passion and dedication towards the project. This has made it a great work environment because, regardless of leadership positions, all team members have been receptive to feedback, open to learning about new concepts, and able to communicate freely regardless of work location. All these reasons and more always makes me think of the saying, “teamwork makes the dream work.” For me this teamwork allows for military focused research/resources to get into the hands of those who need it, which for me personally is my dream work. In fact, 10 years from now I hope to be in a position where I am still doing something along the lines of the work I do with Military REACH, like working with the university student veteran resource center, where I can provide resources to other military affiliated people so they can be successful.

Military REACH TRIP reports are better because of James’ valuable insight and experience. Thank you James for translating research into practice for military families!

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