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NEWS | May 16, 2024

Army Reserve division hosts event for deploying Soldiers at nation’s capital

By Staff Sgt. Shawn Morris 99th Readiness Division

The U.S. Army Reserve’s 99th Readiness Division hosted a Yellow Ribbon event May 3-5 at The Westin Washington DC Downtown Hotel for Soldiers preparing for deployment.

This event was unique in that it was the first to be held by the 99th RD since regaining control of the Yellow Ribbon event contracting process.

“The Yellow Ribbon program has been around since 2008-2009, and at that time every Regional Readiness Command held their own contract responsibility for the program,” explained April Millington, 99th RD Yellow Ribbon Program manager. “Then around 2018, U.S. Army Reserve Command began to manage all the Yellow Ribbon contracts for the Readiness Divisions.”

According to Millington, this process worked well until the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020.

“At the 99th, we were doing virtual events. I had built the virtual events to mirror an in-person event as closely as possible,” Millington continued. “We were trying to make it very interactive.

“Since the pandemic, we have been working on how we’re going to handle these event contracts, and USARC made the decision to bring the contract responsibility and management back to all the Readiness Divisions,” she said. “It means a lot that we have the management of the contracts again because, knowing our region, we’re better able to plan and execute the events.”

The Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program is a DoD-wide effort to promote the well-being of Army Reserve and National Guard members, their families, and communities by connecting them with resources throughout the deployment cycle. Through Yellow Ribbon events, Soldiers and loved ones connect with local resources before and after deployments.

When reserve-component Soldiers prepared for and returned home from deployments prior to 2008, programs such as Yellow Ribbon did not exist. They often had to fend for themselves when it came to issues such as finding jobs, re-adjusting to civilian life, and dealing with post-traumatic stress.

“You’ve heard the horror stories about when the Vietnam Vets returned home – they did not have a program like this to come back to for their reintegration,” explained retired Maj. Gen. Phillip M. Churn Sr., who serves as an Army Reserve Ambassador for the District of Columbia. “That’s why this Yellow Ribbon Program is important.”

Financial counselors and other subject-matter experts are typically available during Yellow Ribbon events to advise Soldiers and their spouses on topics ranging from mortgage management to retirement planning. Another benefit is the presence of private- and public-sector community partners who offer career opportunities during the events.

Yellow Ribbon events are geared not just for the deploying and re-deploying Soldiers, but for their spouses and families as well.

“What we realized doing the virtual events was that we missed the family element,” Millington said.

“Spouses – you play an extremely important role in what’s getting ready to happen right now. It will be up to you to keep the family together,” said Churn, a veteran of multiple deployments, said during the event’s opening ceremony. “We have all the right people here to help you through this process.”