ORLANDO, Fla –
U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers and their Families face unique challenges that separate them from their active duty counterparts, cause stress for civilian employment and strain families, and Lt. Gen. Charles D. Luckey, Chief of the U.S. Army Reserve and the commanding general of the U.S. Army Reserve Command is charged with maintaining a sustainable combat-ready force.
“My responsibility as a leader is to do the best I can to balance three things: readiness of the Soldier but also making sure we aren’t pushing so hard we can’t keep up civilian jobs, but also make sure we aren’t losing or creating friction in our families,” said Luckey during the 81st Readiness Division Yellow Ribbon Program event June 14-16, 2019 near Orlando.
“What you do is hard and requires support from the nation,” said Luckey while addressing an audience of more than 300 Soldiers and Family members from 34 separate units participating in the training.
After 18 years of war, the 200,000 Army Reserve Soldiers he leads, and their families, are mindful of the responsibilities placed before them. That doesn’t make balancing service with civilian and family lives easy, however.
Members of a unit are geographically dispersed, away from military support networks common on installations, and frequently lack of familiarity with available resources when compared to their active counterparts.
“I have charged the chain of command to make sure we are looking at ourselves critically and honestly about where this balance lays, because at the end of the day if we can’t keep this team together, then this team cannot produce the capabilities that America needs” said Lucky.
Part of the responsibility Luckey spoke of lies at the heart of the Yellow Ribbon Program. U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers and Families throughout the deployment cycle are provided education on, and access to, the plethora of resources available to them as they prepare for, execute, and return from deployment or mobilization.
During this three-day event, Soldiers and their guests received a complimentary, three-night stay at the four-star rated Omni Resort at Champions Gate, Florida. There guests were provided education and information on the readiness of the unit, their families, employers, and the affected communities for the rigors of deployment and the challenges of family separation. They participated in break-out sessions covered a wide range of topics such as managing stress, Veterans Affairs benefits, home buying, and financial literacy.
“The Yellow Ribbon Program is a resource to let Soldiers and family members know they are not alone in the Army Reserve” said Donna M. McGee, Yellow Ribbon program manager, 81st Readiness Division. “Just as Soldiers have comradery through a deployment, families need to know that there are others they can reach out to.”
The training culminates in a pair of panels affording attendees to the opportunity to discuss their experiences and ask questions of subject matter experts.
In the Family Panel, attendees addressed thoughts and concerns they may be uncomfortable talking about in the presence of their Soldier, with chaplains, deployment managers, senior Soldiers and Family volunteers that have experienced multiple deployments.
“As an Army Reserve family member, I tried hard when I could to connect to the unit, but it is so difficult due to the mileage constraints” said Julie Luckey, senior family readiness volunteer. “Instead of connecting people to a unit, connect you where you live.”
During the Soldiers Panel, Luckey educated Soldiers on current operations and addressed issues of readiness and retention.
Soldiers and families need to be mentally resilient enough to handle the impact being separated for a whole year and then negotiate the new normal of a life that changed in that Soldiers absence.
“At the most personal level Soldiers and families need to know that they have someone they can reach out to that is going to be there to help,” said Donna M. McGee. “Providing that knowledge is how we help units the meet the needs of the nation while maintain meaningful civilian employment and healthy family lives.”