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Distance no obstacle for Pacific reservists desiring Yellow Ribbon training

Distance no obstacle for Pacific reservists desiring Yellow Ribbon training

From left to right, Airmen from Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, Raymond Flores and wife Marites, Elo Badua and wife Agnes, Jean Paul and wife Schatz and Franklin Soriano and wife Catherine, pose for a photo July 29, 2018 at a Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program event in Chicago. The members traveled more than 4,000 miles to attend and receive reintegration information following their deployments. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Mota)

CHICAGO -- Senior Master Sgt. Steven Martin, 48th Aerial Port Squadron first sergeant from Joint Base Hickam, Hawaii, hit the ground running at his first Yellow Ribbon event.

“I thought I was coming here as an observer. I wanted to see if this is something that’s going to help my troops,” said Martin. “Then I got here and they said ‘No, we want you to come up and speak.’ It turns out they wanted me to speak to the spouses about the role of a first sergeant, which I happen to know a lot about, so it worked out pretty well.”

The Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program promotes the well-being of reservists and their families by connecting them with resources before and after deployments. Celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2018, it began following a congressional mandate for the Department of Defense to assist reservists and National Guard members in maintaining resiliency as they transition between their military and civilian roles.

Roughly 250 guests attended Yellow Ribbon training July 27-29 in Chicago, including 83 Reservists either returning from deployment or soon to deploy. Of these, Hickam Air Force Base and Andersen Air Force Base together had the largest presence.

“Our unit has deployments constantly,” said Martin. “When I took over as first sergeant, over half of our aerial port squadron was deployed.
“In some ways, I think we’re even more deployment-ready than the active duty component, and it seems like Yellow Ribbon really helps with that,” he said. “I can’t stress enough the importance of making sure my Airmen and their families know about every resource available to them, before, after and during a deployment.”

Pre-deployer Maj. Benjamin Guerrera, 44th Aerial Port Squadron operations support flight commander, attended the event for pre-deployment support. Like Martin, it was Guerrera’s first time at Yellow Ribbon.

“Honestly, it exceeded all of my expectations,” Guerrera said. “Coming here all the way from Guam seemed like it was going to be a nightmare at first, and it was definitely a long trip, but the Yellow Ribbon people handled pretty much everything and it really could not have been easier on us.”

For Guerrera, the biggest benefit of Yellow Ribbon was for his family, he said. Servicemembers may already know much of the information given at the event, but their families often don’t, he said.

“I’ve deployed before, and while my kids weren’t really old enough to understand what was going on, it was really hard on my wife,” Guerrera said. “She told me that she felt very alone sometimes, like if something were to happen, she’d have nobody to help her.

“This time, my kids are older and knowing that I’m going away has been tough on them emotionally,” he continued. “The folks here talked to my children about what they’re feeling right now, and they told my wife how to reach out if she needs help, and showed her she’s not alone, and it’s been amazing.”

Guerrera said he fully intends to recommend Yellow Ribbon to all his deployers in the future.

“The first thing I’m going to do when I get back to Guam is tell all the deployers in my unit not to miss out on this,” he said. “It can seem like a huge hassle to come all the way out here... but it’s been more than worth it.”

Guerrera and his wife have already decided to attend Yellow Ribbon again for post-deployment training, he said.

“After the first full day, we talked about it, and we couldn’t think of any reason not to,” said Guerrera. “All of the Yellow Ribbon staff have been so great, and they made it all so easy for us, I don’t think we possibly could have asked for more.”

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