Are you ready? This is the question the 88th Readiness Division’s Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program helps to answer for deploying Soldiers and their families.
The 88th RD hosted more than 700 U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers and family members for a pre-deployment Yellow Ribbon event in Minneapolis on June 15-17. This event focused on providing support and resources for the upcoming overseas deployments of the 807th Medical Command’s 452nd Combat Support Hospital, 113th Medical Company and 1872nd Medical Detachment, as well as the 163rd Ordnance Company, 361st Press Camp Headquarters and the 376th Financial Management Support Unit.
Among the attendees, one-third stated they have deployed multiple times with the majority stating this would be their first deployment.
When asked how Soldiers with deployment experience can support first-time deployers, 88th RD Command Chief Warrant Officer CW5 John Brasfield responded from personal experience.
“It’s mentorship,” said Brasfield, who has served two combat and five imminent danger tours. “Seasoned deployers have to take these first time deployers under their wing, let them know some of the best practices and lessons learned from their experiences. Mentorship allows Soldiers to gain from the pluses and learn from the minuses so hopefully no one has to relive some of those things and everyone can feel more confident in knowing what to do and when to do it.”
A strong support system is also a key factor in a successful deployment. This is especially important for single Soldiers and those with little or no extended family support systems.
Many Soldiers attend the Yellow Ribbon events with friends, their dating partners or battle buddies. Family is a term the military holds dear and includes not only those related by blood or marriage, but anyone a Soldier cares about and who cares about them and will be supporting them throughout the deployment process.
Community partners were also on hand to provide resources and support ranging from college enrollment, tuition assistance and banking services to health education and social support resources.
Sessions for the attendees included Emotional Cycles of Deployment, Before You Take Off: Financial Planning for Deployment, and Social Media Safety Awareness. There were also many opportunities for Soldiers and family members to share their feelings and experiences with one another.
During open forum discussions, a Soldier with the 452nd CSH, preparing for his third tour overseas, shared a reminder to the seasoned deployers.
“Deployment doesn’t get easier because you’ve done it before,” the Soldier said.
He went on to explain how even if you knew what to expect, you still needed to prepare yourself and your family for the challenges ahead.
A family member also spoke during the discussion, sharing her experiences first as wife of a deployed Soldier, later as mother to a deployed son and now as grandmother to a Soldier preparing to deploy with the 452nd CSH.
“The technology available now is incredible and it helps,” the grandmother said. “Learn as much as you can about where they are going and what they may be experiencing.
She also went on to explain how phone calls, emails and social media can keep everyone connected.
Yellow Ribbon events naturally create an environment where families can make connections and build social support systems that can help them through the challenges they will face while their Soldiers are deployed. Social media can be a facilitator in building and maintaining these networks.
The Social Media Awareness session addressed the use and misuse of online platforms and the serious risks involved.
But even with operational security and personal privacy being crucial, Soldiers and their families have many ways to stay connected during most deployments.
When used irresponsibly, technology can put our Soldiers, their mission and our nation in real and serious danger. But, if used conscientiously, technology can be a lifeline.
Many Soldiers and families celebrated Father's Day while attending the event. The day took on an added layer of emotion as many deploying fathers held their small children during the final sessions and other fathers held on to their Soldiers preparing for deployment.
During the closing session of the event, a father of a deploying Soldier stood up and addressed the audience.
“Neighbors are a good resource, but our neighbors don’t know what we are going through,” the father said. “The families and spouses of the Soldiers, our Soldier is deployed with, know what we are going through.
“I want to make sure I can stay connected with them. They are sharing this with us. They are our best resource.”