All sub-disciplines of psychology are represented in the general field of military psychology. Thus, the field offers opportunities for psychologists with interest in clinical practice, teaching, basic and applied research, and consulting.
As the US Army reduces in size, it must improve its approach to selecting, training, and developing soldiers. Psychology is playing a critical role in this effort to optimize soldier performance and adaptability.
The military is leading the way in expanding selection testing to include non-cognitive factors. These advances have significant implications on how the military and other large organizations manage talent by selecting the right person for the right job.
The leadership styles of traditional military leaders have changed. They must possess a skill set that includes the ability to understand diverse cultures, be politically smart, and to embrace transformational leadership strategies, rather than relying on authoritarian approaches to leading others in difficult circumstances.
Psychology and related social sciences may be decisive in future military strategy. Without integrating such knowledge into the military, defeating ideologically based extremist groups like ISIS will be a Herculean task. In short, kinetic energy alone is insufficient to defeat such enemies.
After decades of exclusion, women may now serve equally with men throughout the military, including in combat. In the long term this will enable women to enter the ranks of the most senior leadership positions in our Nation’s military service.
To maintain maximum performance and emotional stability, military members must learn to quickly adapt to ever-changing missions and environments. This requires flexibility in cognition, emotion, social relations, and physical fitness. Psychologists can help the military train and develop these skills.
A West Point graduate, Colonel Fred E. Holdrege flew combat missions over Germany during World War II. After the war he became the U.S. Air Force’s first human factors engineer. His passion for research in military psychology continues to this day.
Humans respond to stress and adversity in complex, individualized ways. Responses range from pathology to personal growth. Lessons learned from the military may help all who face trauma and adversity to respond in a more adaptive way.