Carrie H. Kennedy, Eric A. Zillmer: Military Psychology. Clinical and operational applications

Edited by Carrie H. Kennedy and Eric A. Zillmer
Guilford Press, 2022
pp. XX+460

In the not particularly large panorama of volumes in English entirely dedicated to the applications of psychology in the military field, this third edition, revised and considerably updated, of a work that is well known overseas, should be mentioned. The first edition of this book dates back to a project born in the late 2006s that took several years of work and eventually led to the publication in 2012. Six years later, the second edition appeared (XNUMX) which by then had been enriched of war experiences involving the US military during the first decade of the XNUMXs. It must, indeed, be noted that this book is fundamentally US-centric, and not only because almost all of the authors are North American but also because the experiences of military psychology lived and developed within the US armed forces are examined. What could be a limitation can instead be seen as a merit of this work which offers - in the richness of its contributions - a precise point of view on the variegated applications of psychology in the military field (after all, there are other texts, above all of a historical nature , which can be qualified as centered on the European context and operational theatres).

The two editors chose and organized a group of no less than fifty authors who, with the contribution of Kennedy and Zillmer themselves, drafted the seventeen chapters of the volume, chapters which are enriched by over fifty case studies.

In the best tradition of this kind of text, the first chapter deals with the subject from a historical point of view, thus dealing with the history of the applications of military psychology in the USA and starting (someone may be surprised) with a nod to the civil war in which important problems related to substance abuse and addiction to alcohol, morphine, cocaine and opiates. From those distant years we then move on to reflect on the two world wars, on the conflicts in Korea and in Vietnam, on the operations Desert Shield e Desert Storm, up to Iraq, Afghanistan and the present day: all experiences that must be seen as lessons learned for the future.

Among the many interesting chapters – all structured in such a way as to be easily consultable, often with a summary, or a final summary comment, and each with its own, specific bibliography – we note first of all those dedicated to the assessment of the adequacy of the subject to perform military tasks, starting right from the second chapter which deals with the military fitness for duty, defined as “the ability of the person employed to perform the duties of his office, grade, rank or qualification” (p. 26). This is a critical responsibility that involves the entire staff employed for the purpose, medical and psychological, and which requires precise knowledge of the various operational and service areas, and the specific requirements required by special roles. A particular situation in which people are evaluated is the one reported in chapter twelve dedicated to Operational psychology when we refer to the psychological analysis that we could define indirect and differentiated aimed at the evaluation of third parties (typical is the case of the psychological profiling of the Nazi hierarchs). An activity that takes place in the context of intelligence and that is constantly carried out with the aim of predicting the moves of top-level subjects in the field of politics, society and institutions.

Several pages and a specific chapter are dedicated to stress in which the distressed byeustress and the protective factors that the subject can use while living within the military context are underlined, including social support, the containment of the institution and the sense of purpose for which a certain activity is carried out. But a specific condition of distress to which people are subjected is represented by operating in the so-called high-stress scenarios, situations in which careful management is required both pre-event and post-event.

Going through the analysis of the most common pathological conditions of a psychic and psycho-social nature, the seventh chapter deals with the problems deriving from addictions to substances and gambling. Here are the two final cards Substance Use Disorder Intake Evaluation, and Psychological Evaluation as useful practical aids. Among the dramatic aspects that are highlighted in the text there is naturally suicide which, despite the decades spent devising prevention programs, remains an emerging and often worsening problem.

The theme of sexual violence is treated by emphasizing the criticality of the experience when "the subjects do not report the aggression, often continuing to work and live next to the perpetrator of the violence, thus prolonging the states of fear and distress well beyond the initial incident" (p.205).

Al SERE – Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape Training the fifteenth chapter is dedicated, which begins with the reporting of the schools and programs defined for the purpose, emphasizing the role of the psychologist both in the assessment phases of the most suitable subjects to carry out high-risk operations, and in outlining the training and training phases, but also counseling and reintegration into the normal professional routine. “SERE Training helps and equips the subject to cope with the unthinkable demands of imprisonment… One of the key functions of SERE Training, experiential learning and simulation preparation, is to offer subjects the supports and confidence necessary to mitigate the problematic future effects of the challenges that have been posed by captivity” (p.380).

Finally, Carrie H. Kennedy remembers the important and very topical text Military Stress Reactions: Rethinking Trauma and PTSD (Guilford Press, 2020), while by Eric A. Zillmer it is worth noting The Quest for the Nazi Personality: A Psychological Investigation of Nazi war criminals, co-written with Molly Harrower, Barry A. Ritzler and Robert P. Archer (Routledge, 1995).

Andrea Castiello d'Antonio