The mentoring of officers commanding in the SA Military Health Service (SAMHS): a military social work perspective
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An exploratory research design together with a quantitative research approach were chosen to determine whether military social workers possess the necessary knowledge, skills and values to mentor Officers Commanding (OCs) in the South African Military Health Service (SAMHS). The motivation for this study was based on questions the researcher asked as to whether there was a link between the methods in social work intervention processes, supervision and mentoring processes. During the preliminary investigation, the researcher found that no prior research under this specific subject was undertaken. The researcher also determined from her role as consultant to Officers Commanding in the SAMHS, that whereas military social workers received supervision upon joining the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), OCs, received no formal mentoring. It was also found that although a mentoring policy in the Department of Defence (DOD) existed, no evidence existed that a mentoring programme was implemented in the SAMHS. The goal of the study is therefore to provide military social workers with a framework of a mentoring process for Officers Commanding in the SAMHS. The literature study firstly focused on describing the military social work environment in which the military social worker is employed, as well as theoretical frameworks that guide the military social worker’s task. Although more than one theoretical framework was discussed, the main focus was on the systems theory and ecological perspective. The work environment of the OC was also included, as well as the challenges of their functions, tasks and roles in the SAMHS. Primarily, the literature study explored the knowledge, skills and values of the military social worker and the mentoring process. The sample that was selected for this study was 46 military social workers that represented all the chief military social workers in specialist posts and those with a higher ranking from Captain to Colonel. A quantitative investigation was undertaken by means of a questionnaire which was completed in groups in the respective provinces. The results of the investigation largely confirmed the findings of the literature study namely that military social workers do fit the requirements to mentor. These requirements to mentor were evident in the results of the knowledge, skills and values of military social workers and their understanding of the parallels between the methods in social work, supervision and the mentoring process. The results gave an indication of the knowledge, skills and values of military social workers to mentor Officers Commanding in the SAMHS, and the framework of the mentoring process and how it relates to the casework, group work and supervision processes in social work. The recommendations demonstrated that a central body should be identified to coordinate and plan a mentoring programme in the SAMHS. The recommendations also include that the Directorate Social Work should provide clear guidelines on how military social workers should implement the DOD Mentoring policy, and ensure that military social workers are trained in staff development methods and its processes. The recommendations included further research: both quantitative and qualitative research by means of questionnaires and interviews with OCs, as well as monitoring and evaluation of the mentoring process. This information will benefit military social workers in their training as mentors. In implementing these recommendations, military social workers will be able to contribute significantly to the development of Officers Commanding in the SAMHS and the profession of social work.