The deployment cycle has been churning for the past 16 years in America’s Army Reserve. The Yellow Ribbon Program was born out of that cycle nearly a decade ago in order to address the needs of deploying, deployed and post-deployment Soldiers and their family members. The most recent Yellow Ribbon event for the 88th Regional Support Command was held September 8 to 10 in Minneapolis for more than 400 Soldiers and family members.
During this weekend, the attendees were either pre- or post-deployment. This allowed 88th RSC Yellow Ribbon Program Manager Sylvia Lopez to tailor the presentations and community partner booths to meet the specific needs of those groups.
“It’s important to change up the community partners because there might be new laws that come into effect, new programs, new services that are beneficial to service members that we didn’t know about before,” she said. “There’s also something good about having consistent community partners because they have the history and they know, with the laws changing, this is what it was before but this is what it is now.”
The attendees were split into three groups following the introductory general session Saturday morning. The pre-deployment group addressed needs Soldiers and their families may have in preparation for deployment and how to prepare for the separation. The post-deployment group was divided into two sections: one group was Soldiers who have returned within the last 90 days and the second group was Soldiers who returned within the last 91 to 180 days, along with their family members. Each of the post-deployment sections focused on issues and concerns re-deploying Soldiers and family members may have or need information about.
“I think the family aspect is the most important. They get an understanding of what’s happening, what’s going to happen and what’s out there,” said Staff Sgt. Mark Sobol, a pre-deployment attendee from the 1st Battalion, 364th Regiment. “A lot of times families don’t know about these benefits and what’s out there and how to use them.”
One way in which Lopez and her staff work to address the changing needs of the Yellow Ribbon Program is through surveys after each session and presentation. The surveys allow the Soldiers and family members to address areas that were valuable and other areas that could be added to the program.
“The surveys are so critical. They give us an indication as to whether we’re hitting our mark our not,” Lopez said.