School of Education


Doctor of Philosophy in Education (PhD)


Laura Jones


Attrition, Education, Instructor Pilot, MQ-9, United States Air Force




The purpose of this transcendental phenomenology was to describe the shared experiences of MQ-9 instructor pilots who were considering discontinuing military service at the USAF’s MQ-9 FTU. Discontinuation of military service was defined as separation at the expiration of their Active Duty Service Commitment. The theories guiding this research were Vroom’s expectancy theory, as it connects the relationship between military members’ expectations from their employers and resultant attrition rates, and Herzberg et al.’s (1959) motivation-hygiene theory, as it explains the disconnect between a military member’s motivation, well-being, and work environment. This research followed a transcendental phenomenological design. Purposive and snowball sampling were used to select 10 MQ-9 instructor pilots from a pool of roughly 200. This study focused on a central research question that examined shared experiences of MQ-9 instructor pilots who were considering discontinuing their military career in the USAF. Sub-questions assessed the decision-making process concerning career termination, the challenges their career created for family quality of life, and their challenges in maintaining work/life balance. Data were collected via interviews, protocol writing, and focus groups. Data analysis followed Moustakas’ transcendental phenomenological analysis design through bracketing, phenomenological reduction and horizonalization, imaginative variation, and the synthesis of textural and structural descriptions. Upon completion of analysis, three themes emerged among participants, which included workload, instability, and mental health. The results revealed participants felt that additional duties decreased workplace satisfaction, compensation was deemed adequate but not enough to stay, mental health stigmas continued to prevent healthcare usage, and desirable assignment locations could prevent unhappiness.

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