PEASE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.H. --
Strength and support in numbers.
That was the consensus following a Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program event specifically designed to connect more than two-dozen resources
with deploying Airmen and their family members.
Airman 1st Class Kirsten Arends, a material handler with the 157th Logistics Readiness Squadron, was one of three-dozen Airmen who attended the event held at the 157th Air Refueling Wing on January 5. Arends noted several benefits of the all-day event in preparing for her first deployment.
"This yellow ribbon event surpassed any of my expectations," said Arends, the 2013 Airmen of the Year here at Pease. "This event not only provided information about deployments and resources but was also a great networking tool."
The Yellow Ribbon program is designed to provide information, services, referrals, and proactive outreach programs to servicemembers and families of the National Guard and Reserves throughout all phases of the deployment cycle. Though all servicemembers are required to participate in the program pre and post deployment, the requirement can also be met through individual out processing. The Jan. 5 event was the first group coordinated training by the 157th since May 2011.
"The group events correlate to deployments more effectively," said Karen Morton-Clark, the NHANG Yellow Ribbon Program coordinator. "Servicemembers and their families can interact directly with valuable resources."
Representatives from nearly 30 different organizations were present to meet with servicemembers and their families, including the Red Cross, Easter Seals, Military OneSource, Operation Military Kids and more. The plethora of resources are aimed at meeting the challenges of deployments for servicemembers and their families such as financial burdens, mental health issues, legal services, health care, peer support services and employment opportunities.
The comprehensive event was beneficial according to Civil Engineer Operations Manager Master Sgt. Rob Wolfgram, whose wife Jenette also attended the event.
"She was overwhelmed to find out about all the support that was available to her and my family while I am away," said Wolfgram "In this large gathering you have the opportunity to talk with more people and gather more information than you would have the time to do on your own."
Airman and Family Readiness Program Manager Bonnie Rice said it is vital to get the information to family members to mitigate potential situations and ensure Airmen can focus on the mission while deployed. The event serves as a fire hose of information with members encouraged to contact Rice, Morton-Clark, or the Chaplain's office for further details.
"We make sure to bring in resources so that they know about the resources that are there to support them," said Rice. "We want them to know it is OK to step up and ask for (help)."
In addition to providing an array of resources to Airmen, the event also featured a presentation on resiliency training from Christopher Poe of Techwerks.
Poe, a master sergeant in the Army Reserve, said the resiliency training is a newer concept to the Department of Defense. Techwerks was previously contracted to teach resiliency courses before the Air Force began training its own members as instructors. Poe shared the lessons he learned from previous deployments. He encouraged all military members to attend a resiliency course when the opportunity is provided.
"It is a stressful time so there is no better place for having a set of skills that can help not just the Airmen, but also the families get through that trying time," said Poe. "They can learn to be strong. Everyone goes through tough times in their life and that challenge can be overcome with the skills we teach."
Poe's presentation struck a chord for Arends.
"The resilience training was just outstanding and the resource information that I took away from this event is invaluable," said Arends. "I now have the tools to make my deployment much more enjoyable and less stressful in terms of transitioning both overseas and reintegrating back home."