BLOOMINGTON, Minn. –
One way the Army Reserve puts people first is by promoting quality of life programs that improve the Reserve experience while making it easier to combine family, work, and military life. We all know Families who support and sustain Reserve Soldiers are also a big part of Reserve units being ready for deployments as part of the Total Force.
What better way to demonstrate to Soldiers and Families that the Reserve cares about them than an 88th Readiness Division Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program event like the one held at the Double Tree Hilton here Sept. 23-25, 2022. It is common knowledge that the DoD-wide program is an endeavor to promote the welfare of National Guard and Reserve Soldiers, their Families, and communities by connecting them with resources throughout the deployment cycle. But it also demonstrates to this group that the Reserve ensures that its Soldiers are well taken care of pre- and post-deployment.
This concept also is twofold in the Reserve’s priority mission of recruiting and retention. When it comes to recruiting, every Army Reserve Soldier is a recruiter. So, what better way to recruit future Soldiers than telling them that they will be taken care of before and after they deploy. As far as retention, the Yellow Ribbon program gives Family members a sense of belonging to the Reserve which means they are more apt to support their Soldier’s intent to continue to serve our nation. Soldiers who deploy now can also concentrate on their mission overseas knowing full well that their Family members were made aware of resources available to them and they formed a Family support system.
Program manager Michael Sprague said programs like Yellow Ribbon and Family Programs which include Family members who naturally support their Soldiers give these Soldiers a calmness knowing that the Reserve cares about their well-being. “When they feel that, they are more apt to stay (in the Reserve) longer, said Sprague.
Sgt. Nathaniel Arnett, a motor transport operator who deployed with the 55th Sustainment Brigade, 316th Sustainment Command, based at Fort Belvoir, Va., agreed that the Yellow Ribbon Program can assist in retention.
“I think it absolutely could,” said Arnett who has been in the Reserve for 11 years. “I’ve known some guys who have gotten out of the military because they didn’t have enough information, either through bad leadership or their lack of looking for it. They got out because they didn’t understand what was available to them. With events like this and getting some additional information, I feel it can help at least some people to decide to stay in.”
There was no lack of information at the event. The attendees, roughly more than 200 Soldiers and more than 100 Family members, learned about several deployment or redeployment programs, including TriCare, financial planning, Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve and benefits for Veterans.
Staff Sgt. Troy Wharton, who also deployed with the 55th SB, said the information gave the attendees the needed confidence to calmly navigate their way through the process of seeking employment, business and home ownership, health, finances and so much more. This was the first time he attended the event as a deployed Soldier. Previously, he was responsible for information technology and DEERS for an event.
Sgt. Joshua Beaver assigned to the 411th Engineer Company, 416th Theater Engineer Command, is preparing for his fourth deployment. He has deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait. He agreed that there was a multitude of information and he “feels more prepared after each Yellow Ribbon and it keeps getting better.”
He said these events also allow his wife to meet Family members of Soldiers of his platoon and company. He said the only thing that concerns her about his upcoming deployment is she is expecting their second child. “It helps a lot considering that she gets to know a lot more of the Family members who are around and is able to see who lives nearby,” said Beaver, who has been in the Reserve for 15 years.
Resilient Minds taught by Michael Wikstrom, the Division’s Suicide Prevention Program Manager, touched on the latter. The attendees, which happened to be the most he has taught in the program’s history, learned what each letter in HALT meant. The L is for lonely. Wikstrom asked the audience to ask themselves, “Who do you have that you can lean on like a battle buddy or this there someone with you or at home? He told the audience to think of who that person is. He also told the Family members to ensure they have someone to talk to when stress is overwhelming. “We’re social beings, we are not meant to be alone,” said Wikstrom.
Family members who attended a question and answer break out session to conclude the second day and hosted by the Division’s regional Family Readiness Programs director Dominic Cirincione were able to ask several questions about deployments. Cirincione and a panel including Division Chaplain (Maj.) Matthew Reves fielded several questions, including social media concerns, care packages and how long can I expect my family member to be deployed.
Cirincione and his staff were kept busy during the program. For the first time, the Division’s Regional Soldier and Family Readiness Training was held simultaneously with Yellow Ribbon. The RSFRT included Family integration, program organization, and the appropriate way to arrange an event. Bottom line, Family Readiness Programs representatives were instructed on everything that deals with Family readiness and the means for volunteers and command teams to look after the Soldiers and their Families.