President's Message

Military psychology: Proud, engaged and looking forward

The Div. 19 president recognizes the division's past as a society and military psychology as a discipline.

By Thomas J. Williams

We, as the Society for Military Psychology, can feel justifiably proud of our membership's multifaceted contributions, which advance scientific knowledge in the application of psychology in a variety of settings around the world. The diversity of our membership and the nature of our professional responsibilities allow us a rare opportunity to both model our profession's values and demonstrate how our actions are nested within an ethical foundation to “improve the conditions of individuals, organizations, and society” (American Psychological Association, 2010). This represents a noble and important foundation for the values of the American Psychological Association (APA), which we maintain and adhere to within our division. Indeed, we must strive to help make evident, reassert, and acknowledge that our actions as psychologists do indeed reflect those values. As members of our profession, we strive in all we do to demonstrate how our actions reflect those values, which is perhaps unknown to some.

And strive we must—first, to ensure that the public better understands the important contributions of psychologists focused on military issues, which have helped establish the very foundation of psychology as a profession. We must also strive to ensure we help champion and represent how the science and application of psychology have been pivotal to our military and national security interests in a time of great threat. As the world turns its attention to global threats, many nations are also reflecting on the 100 years since the beginning of World War I. Therefore, it is perhaps fitting that all psychologists consider reflecting on the readiness with which some of the earliest founding members of our profession and the APA recognized their responsibilities to society and to the needs of our military. This sense of responsibility to serve society was captured well in a call to duty to all psychologists that came from an earlier president of the APA, Robert Yerkes, with the following: “Our knowledge and our methods are of importance to the military service of our country, and it is our duty to cooperate to the fullest extent and immediately toward the increased efficiency of our Army and Navy” (Yerkes, 1917). Members of the Society for Military Psychology fully understand this call to duty and the commitment it reveals to help provide service to our society, the military, and the organizations that help protect it . . . in today's increasingly perilous world.

It is that call to duty that imparts a sense of deep honor for me to serve as the president of our division. It is this same call to duty that shapes one of my major initiatives: To help translate the tremendously valuable and multifaceted contributions of our Div. 19 membership to the public. This is a very positive story that will help highlight the tremendous talent of our dedicated and diverse membership and the extraordinary value of their achievements in settings that range from independent practice to academic, clinical, international, military, organizational, operational and research.

My second initiative is to facilitate increased recognition for how our Society for Military Psychology members provide exemplary models for our profession through their excellence in practice, science, education, and the way by which their daily contributions promote the public interest and safety. We do all of this in a way that convincingly reflects the values outlined in our ethics code—with a pursuit of excellence and with the knowledge of the diversity in the various settings around the world in which our members provide their expertise. We do all of this while affirming our commitment to ethical actions that serve to promote the general welfare, safety, and protection of our society.

We are indeed a division that is moving forward due to the great leadership initiatives put in place in previous years by dedicated members of our division leadership team. We recently (Feb. 18, 2015) completed our Div. 19 midyear meeting and I would like to highlight a few examples of what we are moving forward to achieve: We reviewed our truly excellent Div. 19 program for the APA Annual Convention in Toronto in August 2015; discussed and approved the initiation of a review of our division bylaws and strategic plan to bring them up to date; we identified ways to increase our international membership; reviewed our initiatives in support of women in psychology and for early career psychologists; approved funding for division webinar programs that will assist students and all members of the division with the potential for continuing education and other training opportunities. We also approved student research and travel awards and received great service from our treasurer, Scott Johnston, on how to ensure we sustain our financial strength in the near and long-term. Again, this is just to highlight a few items.

I want to publicly thank each of you because it is only through your membership and collective efforts that our division remains strong and vital within the profession of psychology. A significant part of Div. 19's strength and vital momentum is, as was noted above, in the linkage to our profession's past, its relevance to society today, and the appeal of our future. By paying homage to our past and recognizing the relevance and appeal of our future, we contribute to the tremendous success of our truly outstanding student membership committee. They bring to our division a very inspiring energy created by their dedication to the mission of our division, which is expressed through the strength of our student members in over 35 student chapters in universities across the nation. We are fortunate to have such talented and capable student leaders who help us represent the great benefits afforded by membership in our division. By their actions, they help ensure a strong future for our division.

We are most effective and will remain the strongest if we have your trust and confidence that our division is representing and responsive to your professional needs and interests. One important way we are able to do that is by ensuring that we have the largest possible number of members voting in the upcoming Div. 19 election. Your vote helps to ensure that the “collective will” of our membership is heard. In this election round, we will elect a president-elect, APA Council representative, and member at large. Your vote will make a difference. Please consider taking the small amount of time to engage in one of the most cherished rights we can exercise: Voting for the individual who will best represent you and our division as one of its leaders.

I want to close by noting how the APA recently identified the need to help educate the public on how psychology achieves a “boundless application in everyday life.” I offer to you that members of Div. 19 do that every day by applying their psychological knowledge to help our nation and our military personnel (active, reserve-component, retired, veterans, and their family members), organizations, communities, and members function more effectively and with greater safety. Our fellow members of the Society for Military Psychology represent a great and dedicated team of professionals who are “proud, engaged and looking forward!” I am so very proud to engage the issues and opportunities that help to advance our division's interests as we move forward.

Thank you for what each of you do every day to help advance those interests, our division and our profession. I hope to see you in Toronto.


American Psychological Association. (2010). Amendments to the 2002 Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct . Retrieved from

Yerkes, R. M. (Ed.). (1917). Psychological examining in the United States Army. Psychological Bulletin, XIV, 260–262.