WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio --
In 2008, the National Defense Authorization Act established the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program, or YRRP, for National Guard and Reserve members.
The program is designed to assist Guard and Reserve members with transitioning between their military and civilian roles.
Reservists and Guardsman face the unique challenge of leaving behind a civilian job to carry out their military duties.
Each military service, Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, uses this program to inform and equip their Guardsman and Reservists with resources to handle the unique challenges of deploying.
The Air Force Reserve takes special care to use the program to be as effective as possible.
“The main foundation of Yellow Ribbon is really built on the four pillars of resiliency… but we also focus on providing resources from education to finance, so we really try to cover everything,” said Capt. Keisha Dobney-Boykin, Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program representative for the 445 Airlift Wing.
“What makes us unique in the Air Force Reserve is that we do regional events on the east and west coast with as little as 300 people to over 1000.”
Once deployed, reservists are full time military and operate with the technical proficiency of their active duty counterparts. And just like active members, they leave behind loved ones to carry out daily life and anticipate the return home.
Capt. Dobney-Boykins encourages Airmen to bring their families to YRRP events and remind them, “You went on that deployment and you were able to walk away from that deployment, your family is here. You went on deployment, they went in deployment mode, but they don’t get to leave that environment. This gives a gift to your family to get away from your home and be able to focus on you guys as a family.”
These events bring together the families and Airmen who are about to deploy and who are returning home from a deployment, whether that’s mom and dad, or grandma and the children.
The support system for each Airman is important. They are provided information from various agencies at each event to include the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, Veteran Service Office, the chaplain corps, master resiliency trainers, directors of psychological health, legal teams, financial counselors, Psychological Health Advocacy Program, Military One Source, Military Family Life counselors, and the Airmen and Family Readiness Center.
Ms. Pamela Boyd, a North Region Outreach Specialist with the Psychological Health Advocacy Program wants Airmen and families to know she is there to help.
“We want families to know they are not alone and we’re a phone call away 24/7… We understand what they’re going through, and we can help, or even just talk if they want someone to talk to.”
One tough topic Ms. Boyd likes to bring out is being mentally okay.
“The stigma of mental health comes up and you know how people’s fears of being military and seeking mental health. I’ve had leaders tell stories to talk about getting help and how even they had to talk to somebody about whatever, just to say that hey, we’re human too and sometime we need help getting through certain issues in our life. Don’t be afraid.”
As a resource provider at YRRP events, Ms. Boyd seeks to equip Airmen and families with the tools they need to take on the deployment and continue life after.
New to the YRRP is 445th Airlift Wing Director of Psychological Health, Jennifer Marquez. As a resource provider, she also wants to make sure she’s giving Airmen what they need.
“I wanted to see what it was that was offered to Airmen and their families when they attend these events so that way I can inform them and encourage it within our own wing. It’s a great opportunity to obtain resources and make connections that would be helpful to our Airmen and learn what it is that other agencies have to offer”.
Armed with firsthand experience, Ms. Marquez is eager to attend another YRRP event.
“It was just quite an experience. It was good to see them with their families.”
(This article is part 1 of a 3 part series.)