UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Planning for social and psychological needs at a Canadian Arctic military installation Moore, William R.


The Canadian Arctic is a region that greatly contrasts with the remainder of Canada, particularly the main area of settlement: the thin strip of land in southern Canada along the United States boundary. Since Canadian military personnel come primarily from southern Canada, being sent to an arctic installation places them in an unfamiliar, confined, isolated and potentially threatening environment that may expose them to social and psychological stresses that they are unprepared to encounter. Planning of an arctic military installation must consider physical design constraints such as construction in areas of permafrost and physical protection from the harsh natural environment. However, planning should also consider the social and psychological needs of the inhabitants. The purpose of this thesis is to identify measures that should be considered in planning a Canadian arctic military installation in order to alleviate the social and psychological stresses of this unique environment. The scope is limited to investigating primarily the military environment, although relevant material is drawn from other sources through a literature review. In order to identify the stresses of this environment, to understand their potential effects, and to suggest measures to alleviate these effects, a explicit concept of stress is required. A literature review is used to discuss the concept of stress and define a model of stress that is applied in the subsequent analysis in the thesis. This model, the transactional or interactional model, emphasizes the individuality of the experience of stress. Stress is a dynamic phenomenon that includes the capacity of an individual to not only cope with stress, but also learn from the coping experience. The experience of stress is a process affected by the characteristics of the environment, the characteristics of the individual and the relationship between the individual and his natural, man-made and social environment. A second literature review is conducted to discuss the potential social and psychological stresses that could apply to military personnel posted to the unique environment of a Canadian arctic military installation. The more salient characteristics of this environment that imply social and psychological stresses are those of isolation and confinement. Efforts suggested in the literature aimed at either avoiding or ameliorating the incidence of stress in an isolated and confined environment include actions that would be taken: a. in the design of the station built environment; b. in the screening and selection of station personnel; c. during the indoctrination training of personnel prior to deployment; and d. throughout the operation of the station. These measures were applied, via a case study of Canadian Forces Station Alert, to gauge their relevancy in planning a Canadian arctic military installation. Many of these measures are currently in practice; however, particular characteristics of the Canadian military and an arctic military station make changes in specific emphasis. Characteristics which apply are those of: a. the differences in station size; b. the differences in climate and natural environment; c. the need to maintain continuous station operation without the disruption of complete member rotation; d. the limited source population from which to select members for service in the Arctic; e. a station composed of service persons of the Canadian military is typically more homogeneous in composition; f. the differences in the circumstances under which the members are employed, as Canadian service members in the Arctic are less likely to be volunteers; g. the members of the Canadian Forces have already had some experience in postings to isolated environments; and h. the marital status of members has particular importance due to the added difficulities for service families.

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